Keep the Confederate monuments. Rededicate them to our needs.

Summary: Rather than confront our problems, now mobs arise to attack statues. Dr. Torrance Stephens explains that these are tangible evidence of our past, showing important and painfully learned lessons we cannot afford to forget. We can neither punish the dead nor destroy our past, no matter how many statues we knock down. Instead let’s focus our energies on building a better future. Knowing our history can help us do that.

Marcus Garvey

 

Why Black Folks Need Confederate Monuments.”

By Torrance Stephens at his website.

Reposted with his generous permission.

 

Few know that one of my favorite books is 1984 by George Orwell. Since about ten years of age, I’ve must have read this book more than 20 times. Each time I read it I come away with something new.

To refresh your memory, the main character in the book is a man named Winston Smith. Smith works in the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite history per the desires of the Party that runs the totalitarian government of Oceania. Specifically, he revises old writings, politically inconvenient facts and history to advance the propaganda interests of the Oceania government.  One tool Orwell invents for this purpose was the memory hole.

Memory hole

In 1984, Orwell describes a memory hole is an opening in a wall connected to a tube that is connected to an incinerator. It is employed to destroy any inconvenient or embarrassing fact on historical records that is no longer considered useful for politics. In addition, using the memory hole made it easier for the government to get people to engage in “duckspeak” (speaking without thinking), obviate “oldthink” (thoughts, beliefs or ideas enthused by past events, memories and history in the times before the revolution) and to encourage “blackwhite” (getting folks to believe that 2 + 2 is 5, or that white is black and black is white and to forget that one has ever believed anything different.

Over the past few years, a movement in the African American community has been afloat to remove all historical confederate reminders of the period in which the United States was engaged in a Civil War (1861-1865) and this scares me. Not because I support the confederacy or do not support the confederacy, but because I support history and learning and pedagogy. Removing these symbols will do nothing for black folk and make things a lot worse in my view.

Statue of Robert E Lee in New Orleans
Statue of Robert E Lee in New Orleans. Removed on 19 May 2017. Lee opposed such reminders of the War.

First, this is just cosmetic, it will not mean nothing, since when do you get your feeling hurt by looking at a flag or a statue of a many you don’t know historically anything about? Robert E. Lee owned slaves sure, and he ran a plantation before the war, but he historically is no different than Thomas Jefferson or George Washington from this perspective.  Are you upset with the state of Virginia too? Will it be next? After all Virginia was named after the person who introduced slavery to America. Half of the folk so offended likely couldn’t tell you when the civil war was fought without the assistance of google nor have read any book about it or any other American wars for that fact.

I fear that without these historical reminders, being as lazy as we are with respect to reading and our penchant to watch TV more than we read, we will have forgot about this tragic and painful part of U.S. History and sleep walk back into a similar predicament in future generations. It isn’t like we discuss history with our children anyway especially with this most recent generation. This is one reason why Marcus Garvey wrote “A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Our incessant focus on memory holing history is idiotic and ridiculous.  Why is it that we put more time into complaining about statues and flags than our kids killing each other on the streets of Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans or Memphis every day? Why do we spend more energy on superficial actions when we can go around to any government public school and find more than half of the kids not proficient in ANY subject on grade level? Now these are worth attention, but nope, not sexy or dramatic enough (Deray trained yawl hypocrites well).

I’m not offended or traumatized by any statute or flag. Why are we as black folk offended and traumatized by historical fact? Will removing them take the historical record away? Will it make more black folk richer? Will less of us live in poverty? Will we start more business? Will it lower STI rates in our community? NOPE – NOT ONE BIT. Because this is misdirected and misguided energy aimed at something that has no tangible impact on any black person in America unless you a puzzy with a soft as wet toilet paper mentally.

Fake outrage everywhere

It seems as this fake synthetic outrage is becoming a contagious pandemic.  Baltimore City Council has voted to remove four Confederate monuments in the city. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus want to remove all Confederate statues from the Capitol. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), told The Hill that…

“Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol. These images symbolize a time of racial discrimination and segregation that continues to haunt this country and many African-Americans who still to this day face racism and bigotry.”

Can’t make this up, so now black folks are afraid of ghost and haunted by images and symbols? Even more comedic is that magically, by removing these images and symbols, the past “time of racial discrimination and segregation” will either be forgotten or vaporize and end. Simple ain’t it? Talk about historical revisionism and make-believe.

Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center, in Chicago is calling for the removal of a statue of statue George Washington and his and President Andrew Jackson’s name removed from Washington and Jackson parks respectively, because they owned slaves. I suspect cats will be going after all confederate cemeteries and even the Confederate monuments in Gettysburg National Military Park (although Park and State officials say they will never be removed.)

What will be next, removing all members of the confederacy or former slave owners from history books? Removing said history books from the libraries’? Preventing people from even writing books on the confederacy or slavery because “these images symbolize a time of racial discrimination and segregation that continues to haunt this country and many African-Americans who still to this day face racism and bigotry?” Will John C. Calhoun, a former vice president and staunch supporter of slavery be next? What about the Dallas Cowboy football team whose blue star is from the Bonnie Blue Flag (a banner of the Confederate States of America at the start of the American Civil War in 1861).  Since many of us black folks do not read as much as previous generations, these two may be safe for as they say “to hide something from a nigg@, put it in a book.”

Amnesia: the dark descent

Yes, one day our kids will not know anything about US history, slavery, the civil war or the deeds of many, good or bad, for the fear of as then Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted in signs that confederate monuments were just “part of a propaganda campaign” to “perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy. “

Again, although I am a black man, I will likely be called a racist piece of uninformed white trash, or worse – described as not being woke – for not supporting non-substantive cosmetic actions under the guise of African American self-determination and empowerment. But like the Taliban who destroyed the historical largest standing Buddha’s, in the world in Bamiyan, who had been standing since the century. In Afghanistan, or ISIS, who destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin at the Syrian site of Palmyrabecause they found the offensive to Allah, similar suggestions about confederate monuments are equally claims of bull shit.

You do not have to agree with me but this is how I see it.  If you do not believe me, just try to take down AuschwitzDachau or Buchenwald: Jews will never let it happen because they do not want ANYONE to forget about what happened to them so it will never happen again.  Not us. They write and make documentaries incessantly on every aspect of the Holocaust and you will see at least one every day or weekly on TV around the world.  Whether is on the Kristallnacht or the  Nuremberg Laws or the Jews of Poland or the Jews of Lithuania or the human experimentation they tolerated, they telling their story.

Not US.  Instead we get mad and formulate #Noconfederate because we too lazy to write and make our own and/or tell our own historical reality. Like I said. try to take down Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald: Jews will never let it happen because they do not want ANYONE to forget about what happened to them so it will never happen again.  Not us.

———————————–

Exciting the mob!

Al Sharpton and CNN contributor Angela Rye want statues and memorials of Jefferson and Washington taken down.

The Guardian: “New York mayor considers Christopher Columbus statue removal.

Let’s Blow Up Mt. Rushmore” by Wilbert L. Cooper at VICE —
“Donald Trump says removing confederate statues is a slippery slope that could get out of control. Maybe he’s right—would that be such a bad thing?”

Mt. Rushmore
Image by Lia Kantrowitz.

The Editor’s follow-up note

“In the end the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods …neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia …Accompanied by a campaign against the Past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments … by the suppression of all books published before A.F. 150.”
— From Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Should we sanitize our history and erase disreputable, even evil, elements? But those sins are not our sins. The deeds of the dead are beyond punishment. It is good that we see accepted practices of the past, like slavery, as evil. This shows America’s progress over time. But we just as we cannot punish the dead, we cannot take credit for the successes (only our own). As Newton said, we stand on their shoulders. It ill becomes us to spit down upon them.

Monuments of the past should be preserved to remind us of our history. It is part of who we are. Statues of Confederate leaders are tangible evidence — more compelling than words or TV shows — that America was born with and built on slavery. As Dr. Stephens says, we cannot allow ourselves to forget this.

As Calvin explains in the below cartoon, progress requires us to revalue events in our past. Monuments erected with pride now remind us of darkness in our past — and should warn us against relapses. Racism is resurgent. We should be holding rallies at Confederate monuments to swear to never allow America to backslide on our painfully won progress against racism.

Revolutionaries like to destroy our past because it makes us weak and more easily manipulated.  Spitting on the dead is a fun easy way to the arouse emotions of mobs, making them feel virtuous. First direct them at easy targets like monuments, than at their political foes. For good reason the Founders saw mobs and factionalism as the chief enemies of the Republic. We might soon learn why.

 

Update: these attempts to erase the past are a common practice. For example, Romans destroyed the damnatio memoriae of unpopular leaders. It seldom works and even less often helps build a better future.

Calvin explains history

About the author

Dr. Torrance Stephens has had a fascinating career as a professor, scientist, poet, author, and public intellectual. He has testified before Congress HIV/AIDS and recidivism in the African American prison population and lived in Africa while conducting research.

Torrance Stephens

Dr. Stephens received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morehouse College, his master’s degree in educational psychology from Atlanta University, and his doctorate in Counseling from Clark Atlanta University. He completed postdoctoral work with the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, with a fellowship emphasis on international health. He did additional postdoctoral work with the Department of Education and the West African Research Association, with an emphasis on epidemiology.

Dr. Stephens has worked as a Research Specialist at Morris Brown, a Research Specialist at Wholistic Stress Control Institute Inc. of Atlanta, and Africare International in Nigeria. He was a Research Assistant Professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, teaching social behavior and public health, social statistics, and public health theory. He is now in the Adjunct Faculty of the Department of Psychology at Clark Atlanta University.

Dr. Stephens’ interest in African American male health is reflected in his numerous projects, presentations, and publications. See his professional publications at Google Scholar. and ResearchGate {Source.}

His articles have appeared in many publications, including NOMMO, Creative Loafing, Rolling Out, Talking Drum, and the North Avenue Review. See his books (his two most recent appear below). See his website. Follow him on Twitter as ThoughtCrime.

For More Information

Useful historical context to statues about Confederate generals: “Southern Poverty Law Center Distorts the Legacy of Confederate Statues” by Jarrett Stepman. They are part of America’s post-civil war history, which is more complex than the cartoon painted by the Left.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the far Left, about political violence, about our amnesia, about reforming America – steps to a new politics, and especially these…

Two of Torrance Stephens’ books

"Butter Brown" by Torrance Stephens.
Available at Amazon.

Butter Brown.

From the publisher…

“In these powerful stories, Torrance Stephens takes readers into the psychological purview of the African American male psyche. Butter Brown presents eight stories of black men living both in concert and against the grain of the western world that consumes them.

“A nimble story teller, Stephens paints a lyrical picture that is beautifully suggestive and inventive. This collection contains 16 stories that display the author’s evidently adept talents in multiple genres including comedy and erotica. Stephens’s writings breathe with emotion that is often acute and cynical.”

Brilliant Dumb — “Politics, culture, and and Jactitation in the Age of Obama” (2014).

From the publisher…

"Brilliant Dumb" by Torrance Stephens.
Available at Amazon.

Ignorance Is Strength. These words comprise one of the statements observed by Winston on the pyramid of the Ministry of Truth and are the national slogan of Oceania in George Orwell’s “1984”. They are what writers call a paradox. From a utilitarian purview, a paradox is a vehicle by which a writer can communicate self-contradictory truisms that on the surface appear absurd yet effectively demonstrate combinatorial disjunction.

“In other words, like math, a paradox explains a least common denominator albeit at times contradictory, deduced from apparently acceptable and valid thesis.?

 

37 thoughts on “Keep the Confederate monuments. Rededicate them to our needs.

  1. Even James Kunstler is disgusted by the current wave of leftist hysteria. (See Wikipedia).

    Total Eclipse” at his website.

    “First they came for the statues….

    “What do you know, long about Wednesday, August 16, 2017, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) discovered that the United States Capitol building was infested with statues of Confederate dignitaries. Thirty years walking those marbled halls and she just noticed? Her startled announcement perked up Senator Cory Booker (D- NJ) who has been navigating those same halls only a few years. He quickly introduced a bill to blackball the offending statues. And, of course, the congressional black caucus also enjoyed a mass epiphany on the bronze and stone delegation of white devils.

    “I’d like to hear to hear an argument as to why the Washington Monument should remain dedicated to that vicious slave-driver and rebellious soldier, and indeed the name of the city that is the federal seat of government. Or the District of Columbia (after Columbus, who initiated the genocide of Native Americans). Or America, cribbed out of Amerigo Vespucci, the wicked Florentine cartographer who ascertained that the place called Brazil today was not the east coast of Asia but actually a New World — and so all our troubles began!

    “Well, there has been a lot of idle chatter the past half-century about the root causes of this-and-that, and it seems that we have located one at last. I expect that scientific studies out of our best universities will soon confirm that occult transmissions from the statue of Jefferson Davis (a double-devil named after an earlier devil) are responsible for the murder rate in Chicago.

    “Just as empires tend to build their most grandiose monuments prior to collapse, our tottering empire is concocting the most monumentally ludicrous delusions before it slides down the laundry chute of history. It’s as if the Marx Brothers colluded with Alfred Hitchcock to dream up a melodramatic climax to the American Century that would be the most ridiculous and embarrassing to our posterity. …”

  2. Next stops rename Yale University, literally founded with slave trade profits. Stone Mountain (obviously).

    I typically roll my eyes at the slippery slope argument but this is one case it’s applicable.

    Columbus’s actions killed more people than Robert E Lee. Vikings (of Minnesota Vikings fame) ethnically cleansed northern England. FDR put Americans into literal concentration camps. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, loved eugenics.

    Once you raise the bar to infallible for historical figures, darn near everything needs to be whitewashed

    1. Craig,

      I too mocked when the “slippery slope” argument became in widespread use in the early 1970s. But the past 50 years have shown that it is very correct. Many of the slippery slope predictions about social change have proven to be correct.

  3. Oh FM, Thank you for introducing me to Dr. Torrance Stephens! His post is exactly what this Crack@h’s been preaching in the streets! We think exactly alike on this issue.

    By the way, Morehouse has the best radio station in ATL! IMO.

    What really cracks me up is all these intellectuals and leaders who are supposed to be so smart and better than me. They keep talking about Race and races. They are completely off base and I believe it’s intentional to protect their Plutocracy.

    WE ARE ONE RACE, THE HUMAN RACE!!!! We are made up of Breeds and Tribes!

    Lastly, and I preface this with the fact I would love to meet Dr. Stephens so I could give him a big hug, a Manly Embrace. So here goes:

    I have a dream! I’ve dreamed it since I was a little boy. I have a dream that one day a young Black and a young White meet on the street in Atlanta and the black kid says to the white kid, “Hey Crack@” and the white kid says to the black kid, “Hey Nigg@”! Then they both just Bust Out Laughing and embrace because they’re old friends trying to get attention to set an example or to teach.

    However, if I met Dr. Stephens I would introduce myself, address him as Sir because I believe I can learn much from him.

    Side note: I shall also comment on yesterday’s post. It’s very important.

  4. Excellent points made here, thank you FM. Those without knowledge of history are doomed to repeat it. unfortunately what passes for the educational system in our country is more of a babysitting service, delivering dumbed down pablum approved by numerous review committees for political correctness over historical or factual accuracy. thanks again

    1. Editor,

      Considering the sciences of Archaeology and the Human Genome Project. I had an other thought. I think about the fossil “Lucy” and where she was found in the Rift Valley of Africa and what we learned from the Human Genome Project proves my previous comment. When Leif Erickson met the First American, the New World Man, Humanity collided, having come full circle around the Planet Earth.

      That makes us ALL part African! In my case it’s closer in my lineage Viking/Moor.

      Cheers

  5. The comparison between holocaust memorials like Auschwitz and Confederate statues is confused, to put it generously. A slave auction block is more like Dachau than a confederate statue. It’s a historical artifact that reminds us of the brutality and injustice of an older era. Almost all of these confederate statues (including the one that got pulled down) aren’t Civil War relics, they were built in the early 20th century during a period of entrenched Jim Crow laws and intensifying clan violence. It would be as if the descendants of Nazi officers decided in 1995 to build a statue of Goebbels in Berlin and then complained that anyone who objected was censoring history and denying the holocaust.

    1. Tips,

      Perhaps you did not read the title? “Repurpose them to our needs.” Italics added.

      Perhaps you didn’t read the note I added at the end of the essay — to make the author’s point really really clear.

      I suggest that you re-read the post again, more slowly this time.

  6. Your quote from your first comment is from the website of James Howard Kunstler, not the lawyer William Kunstler. William Kunstler died in 1995

  7. i’m afraid that dr. stephens is conflating two very distinct ideas: remembrance and celebration. of course jews would oppose the removal of dachau. maintaining it is an act of remembrance. imagine the uproar, however, if someone proposed a statue of adolph hitler in israel(or anywhere else for that matter). these confederate monuments are celebratory. that, after all, is why racists have rallied to their defense. they are concentrated in the south–what a surprise– precisely because they represent a racist and exclusionary past that many would like to revive.

  8. It isn’t a complex issue. These statutes weren’t put up as history lessons but to honor “heroic” generals and leaders of the “lost cause.” Arguing that these statutes, with gallantly posed Confederate generals, remind or instruct us about our horrific history of slavery and our vicious Civil War is mind boggling in its logic. The only way to re-purpose them is to re-cast them with heads bowed and supplicant.

    1. Richard,

      “remind or instruct us about our horrific history of slavery and our vicious Civil War is mind boggling in its logic.”

      Why can they not be repurposed to that? Why is the meaning inherent in the stone, rather than what we assign it? As the cartoon says, the redefinition of history and symbols is a omnipresent fact of life.

    2. Richard,

      I agree with recasting these revanchist monuments. A bronze Robert E. Lee signing the terms of surrender would make a nice feature in any quaint Southern town.

  9. I’m no intellectual, I’m aan infectious disease scientist. Intellectual cats always right. I learn more being wrong than right. TTS

  10. PS: I intentionally stayed away from purpose of the statues and instead used them as examples for the utility of history ergo conflation ( merging different sets of information) is inaccurately applied herein imo). But point taken.

    1. Dr. Stephens,

      “I intentionally stayed away from purpose of the statues”

      That’s only logical. The people who made those statues are long dead. Their intent died with them. No meaning is inherent in the stone or bronze. Meaning is something we input to events and objects. Also note a quote I added to my Afterword. In this, as in so many things these days, Huxley was prophetic about the Left’s plans and tactics.

      “In the end the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods …neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia …Accompanied by a campaign against the Past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments … by the suppression of all books published before A.F. 150.”
      — From Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

  11. T Stephens/rawdawgbuffalo,

    I would make the point that you have to recognize the statues are both a representation of history and an artifact of history – they weren’t created in a vacuum and they don’t exist in a vacuum now. We shouldn’t forget the Civil War (though it’s not exactly clear to me how flattering statues of Confederate officers actually adds anything) but we shouldn’t forget that these statues say a lot more about 20th century American history than they do about the 19th. Most of these statues were erected by white supremacist state legislatures in the 1920s, within a system of apartheid that was maintained by the state and through overt domestic terrorism. The fact that this part of the statues’ history has been so studiously avoided seems like the most Orwellian aspect of the whole ordeal.

    1. TIps,

      It would be nice if you would give the slightest evidence that you read the post. Or rather, less evidence that you didn’t read it.

      “though it’s not exactly clear to me how flattering statues of Confederate officers actually adds anything”

      You see, repeating stuff that shows you didn’t read the post isn’t helpful.

      “but we shouldn’t forget that these statues say a lot more about 20th century American history than they do about the 19th.”

      Yes, that’s the point of the post.

      “Most of these statues were erected by white supremacist state legislatures in the 1920s, within a system of apartheid that was maintained by the state and through overt domestic terrorism.”

      We all know this.

      “The fact that this part of the statues’ history has been so studiously avoided seems like the most Orwellian aspect of the whole ordeal.”

      That’s quite delusional. I suggest you read a newspaper. Any newspaper in America.

      I’m moderating further comments, unless you say something new — preferably relevant.

  12. fm: “try re-reading more slowly” you suggest. actually, i read it very slowly and carefully because i couldn’t quite believe what i was reading. re-purpose monuments to racist violence? when a majority of african americans, or even a significant minority, agree to such a bizarre suggestion, it may be worthy of credence. these statues have become rallying points for the most odious elements of our society. how will you convince the kkk to re-purpose their beloved memorials?

    1. Jay,

      ” because i couldn’t quite believe what i was reading.”

      No. Because you could not correctly represent what you read. Comprehension. You show no signs whatsoever of having read the post, and write a rebuttal based on your own arguments. You are shadow boxing. Enjoy yourself, but don’t expect to be taken seriously.

      Note that I reply to direct quotes to avoid that problem. I recommend that you try it.

  13. Dear FM,

    As a Yankee I have spent substantial portions of my life in the south. In my view, the purpose of Confederate monuments is to glorify the confederacy and what it stood for (i.e. slavery). While I do not believe these monuments should be destroyed, they must be repurposed. My thought when seeing them was, what would I think if they I were black. This debate is long in coming, and it lays bear the pathetic racist divides that still exist.

    1. Zentar,

      “the purpose of Confederate monuments is to glorify the confederacy”

      Is there anybody in the US who doesn’t already know that? Isn’t that pretty obvious from looking at one?

      “While I do not believe these monuments should be destroyed, they must be repurposed.”

      I’m glad that you agree with Dr. Stephens and me.

      “My thought when seeing them was, what would I think if they I were black.”

      As Dr. Stephens said, they represent America’s past — something that shouldn’t be erased as we have with so many of the dark deed in our past.

  14. I don’t think that the fact that the monuments represent the glorification of racist ideals is obvious in light of the myths the South has created about itself. That is why this moment is important. If it ends in the destruction of some horrible statues, I am ok with it as long as the country faces it’s racist past and current moment.

    1. Zemtar,

      “In other words, their racist ideology needs to be exposed right now, not further whitewashed.”

      Exactly. Too many people believe the propaganda about the antebellum South and the Civil War. From “Gone with the Wind” story about nobel plantation owners and happy darkies — to the lie about why the South left the Union.

      But that’s not enough. We need to repurpose those monuments as memorials to this injustice so future generations remember those dark days. Never again!

    2. Zemtar,

      I don’t think that the fact that the monuments represent the glorification of racist ideals”

      (a) Physical objects don’t represent anything. The creators had an intent. We interpret them today. We generate the meaning.

      (b) You stated it their original intent in your previous comment: “the purpose of Confederate monuments is to glorify the confederacy”. What they say to future generations is up to us.

    1. The Murr,

      Thank you for sharing those two materials. Doing so is among the most useful for comments!

      To encourage people to read them, I added a more complete description to your comment — plus a link to the text of Everett’s story (for those who, like me, haven’t jointed the multi-media era).

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