Public Comment

Confederate Names & Statues

Jagjit Singh
Friday June 19, 2020 - 02:36:00 PM

The global outrage following the death of George Floyd has exposed systemic racism and our ugly history. Many of our military leaders have expressed profound dismay and embarrassment for allowing a number of United States military bases to be named after Confederate military officers. This occurred during our shameful acquiescence to Jim Crow oppression of black Americans in the South. 

Weeks following righteous anger have prodded lawmakers and cities across the country to take action to curb systemic racism, social inequities and police brutality. Whether this is political posturing or a harbinger of better things to follow, remains to be seen. History is replete with examples of the moral force of independent thinkers coupled with people power. Violence is a familiar American experience. We removed the yoke of oppressive British colonial rule with guns and acts of disobedience. 

The global outrage has now turned its attention on the symbolic monuments of white power. Officials supervising the removal of Jefferson Davis, a Confederate leader from Kentucky, found a newspaper dated 1936 described “African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social and a political blessing.” Slave owner, Robert Milligan, has even removed from outside the museum in London Docklands. Several London hospitals have removed the names of their founders who sought to expunge their dark dees with blood money. 

Symbols are important. They weave a false narrative to justify our dark history. It is shameful that the US Congress is adorned with statutes glorifying the confederates. They should be removed and tossed into the dustbin of our history. The removal of these symbols of oppression is only the beginning. The momentum is on our side. The only movement the power elite understand and fear is popular dissent and defiance. The French and Russian revolutions are examples of “people power.” Let us not squander the moment. 

“Equal justice under the law” should have real meaning. 

Labor rights were won – over the opposition of business – only because workers organized into unions and threatened to withdraw their labor. 

We live in sophisticated oligarchies, where corporations control the narratives of our lives through their control of the mass media to make us compliant and believe in fairytales. 

Britain’s black and brown communities have been oppressed for many decades. “No colored, no Pakies need apply” used to be a common advertisement in British Newsagents in the 60’s. And the ultimate insult, “respectable Indian couple considered”. 

To those who argue like President Trump, that the confederacy is part of our history. To which I say, bah humbug! How would our Jewish brothers and sisters respond if Germany would allow photographs of Adolf Hitler to be prominently displayed? 

It is past time we have a frank, inclusive conversation about what we want our societies to be. Whether we want them to be welcoming and fair or cruel places that commemorate the naked exercise of power in the past and implicitly condone its continuing use today (as was highlighted by our recent crimes in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq).How quickly we have forgotten President Bush and VP Cheney “black sites” where state sponsored torture was practiced. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss President Trump have even gone as far as threatening to impugn the integrity of the UN Human Rights Commission lest out war crimes be exposed. It is regrettable that President Trump supports these symbols of oppression arguing that they are important chapters in our history. I wonder if he uses the same twisted logic to support the erection of statues of Adolf Hitler in Germany.