The Newnan Times-Herald

Opinion

Time to rethink Confederate monuments


  • By Clay Neely
  • |
  • Sep. 09, 2017 - 4:25 PM

The situation in Charlottesville, Va. was supposedly caused by the statue of Robert E. Lee, but not really. Charlottesville was actually an indication of where the white supremacists are headed in regard to this still-new administration. They are looking to divide this nation along racial lines.

In Georgia, we have a particularly egregious example of why these Civil War memorials cause many Americans discomfort. The Augusta Confederate monument reads: “no nation rose so white and fair, None fell so pure of crime.” Really?

As hard as it may be, we Southerners must finally acknowledge that the Confederate generals were traitors who sought to destroy the Union over the issue of slavery. Some were horrible men who started the KKK and persecuted innocent black men and women. But, some led good lives after the war and should be celebrated for their good deeds as well as their major and obvious faults.

If it were not for people like Gen. Lee, there would have not been a peaceful transition of power when the South lost. We could have looked like Iraq.

Frankly, as someone who has lived in small Southern towns the majority of his adult life, I understand the positive and negatives of Southern culture. Slavery and white supremacy were, and still are, 100 percent inexcusable evils.

The USA did an extremely poor job of bringing former slaves into American society, a fact bigots continue to purposefully overlook. That lack of proper integration is the cause of the problems in current day African-American society, from crime to jobs to education. The Civil Rights Act in the 1960s did not make up for a longstanding legacy of persecution and neglect.

Turning the very real debate on white supremacy into a debate about Southern heritage is exactly what the racists want. They want good people to start to think that maybe the racists have a point.

Those of us who see this supremacist strategy must fight back. We must acknowledge that there was suffering on all sides as a result of the war. And, there were good people fighting on both sides, although one side fought for the wrong cause, an abomination.

Monuments to Confederate war heroes that were placed on the steps of the county courthouse by people wanting to undo the results of the Civil War send the wrong message to many groups, including African-Americans, immigrants and non-Southern whites in general. However, they are part of this nation’s history and art. As Trump said, the right place for these works of art is a museum.

An alternate would be to keep these statues but put monuments beside them of Northern figures like Lincoln and heroes like Harriet Tubman with an accompanying explanation of why the war was fought, and condemnation of slavery.

The more important issue, however, is not the monuments. That is just what the KKK and Nazis want us to argue about.

All Americans of goodwill must condemn white supremacy, period. We must stop saying that there is an alt-right and an alt-left and that they are both wrong.

There is racism and bigotry. Those that practice them and/or defend them are morally wrong.

Jack Bernard of Fayette County, a retired corporate executive, was a two-term county commissioner and former county Republican Party chairman in Jasper County.