Monuments are for Heroes

Statue of Abraham Lincoln: President who saved the Nation

In 2014, I was a CGSC student at the satellite campus on Fort Belvoir. One day sitting in one of my history classes, the phrase “Civil War” was mentioned. I believed one of my fellow majors asked if we would cover the Civil War. Then all of a sudden, the Major said (while looking at me) “You know the Civil War was not about slavery. It was about “State’s Right.”” Of course, this was directed at me (as if he wanted to make me aware that what I was taught was false) because I was one of the two black officers in the class. BEFORE I could respond, the instructor quickly directed the conversation somewhere else. I was not even angry at the time. I was perplexed. In my 30+ years of living, I have never heard that argument used as the true reason for the Civil War. Growing in Richmond, I knew otherwise. As I became more familiar with the major, I discovered one critical fact. He was not even from a southern state. He was from Colorado!

Why do I mention this story? Well, because I think it is important to understand how successfully white people of confederate descendants have convinced themselves AND some unsuspecting people who were not (are not) from southern states of this new narrative called “State’s right.”

Statue of Robert E. Lee along Monument Avenue

This ties into the issue of monuments and their removal. I grew up in Richmond, Va. Anyone from that city knows of “Monument Avenue.” What is Monument avenue? Miles of statues of Confederate Generals, Soldiers, and leaders mixed in with American Revolutionary Heroes. Growing up there, the statues were just there and accepted as fact. We even have an elementary school named after Robert E. Lee called “Robert E. Lee elementary.” Let us clear something up: Monuments are built to honor someone or something. Monuments are for heroes. They are not for villains. So when you see a monument, you see a hero. You do not see monuments of Hitler because 
 it is generally accepted that he was a despicable person.

That, in essence, is what is wrong with the monuments that honor confederate leaders. We honor and treat them as heroes and not as traitors (which they were, plain and simple).

If there was ever a symbol of why America can not move past racism, it is these monuments of Confederate Leaders that are located throughout towns and cities in southern states. They say to black Americans “what we did was honorable and just.” You see, history is always (and will always) be tied to the present. These monuments incorrectly tie us to the past where the confederacy was just and heroic. Because of that misconception, we are where we are as a nation.

You do not think so? Let me connect the dots for you:

Indentured servitude to indentured servitude rebellion; this rebellion led to the slave code; slave code to mass enslavement of humans of African descent; this enslavement to the anti-slavery movement; this movement to the Civil War; Civil War to the Reconstruction Era (this is critical because it is my belief that if this Era was successful, America would have long solved the race problem); But we didn’t so…Reconstruction to the Jim Crow Era (Where southern white people were allowed to systematically terrorize law abiding (pay attention: Tax Paying) African-Americans Citizens; Jim Crow to the GI Bill (which denied Black WWII veterans access the GI Bill, which is credited with the prosperity of the 1950’s and 60'. Another opportunity to solve the race problem); so…GI Bill to the Civil Rights Movement (Because the 13, 14, and 15 amendment was not codified into US Code); This movement to the Civil/Voting Right acts; these laws to the Federal housing Administration’s policy (FHA) of systematically denying loans to black Americans. (which also help create ghettos through “red lining); FHA policies to the crack epidemic (you know “crack babies” and “crack heads”); this epidemic to the “War on Drugs”; This war to President’s Clinton Crime Bill; and….This bill towards Mass incarceration. …the present

My ultimate point is that removal of these monuments is needed in order for this country to truly begin to solve the “race problem.” Their treacherous and traitorous deeds belong in museums and books, not on streets because monuments are for heroes.

Disclaimer: Major Xkoshan L. Arnold is a United States Army Officer. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.