‘Battle of New Orleans’ as statues removed

On edge: New Orleans police warned of “high law enforcement presence” as statues were removed.

For some, they are symbols of white supremacy. For others, they are simply expressions of history. The Confederate monuments of New Orleans are being taken down. Is this the right move?

In the dead of night in New Orleans, Louisiana, workers began demolishing an obelisk which was erected in 1891 to honour members of a group who fought against the racially integrated New Orleans police in the 19th century.

It was the first of four monuments to be taken down in the city.

This is the result of the latest of many debates about Confederate symbols in a post-slavery United States. The decision was taken by Mitch Landrieu, the city’s mayor, in order to send “a message that celebrates our inclusion and tolerance”.

Many inhabitants of the majority black city are rejoicing at the mayor’s decision. Malcolm Suber, an African-American activist, wants the destruction of the monuments to be the city’s Berlin Wall moment.

But for some white people in the city, the decision seems like an attempt to erase history. A businessman called Frank B. Stewart Jr published a letter in a local paper asking “should the pyramids in Egypt be destroyed since they were built entirely from slave labour?”

Confederate symbols have been debated since Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, killed nine people at a black church in South Carolina in 2015. The debate has echoes around the world.

Facing up the past

This is the right decision, say some. Imagine being an African-American, the descendant of slaves, and having to walk past these grotesque monuments every day. The US Southern states must find a way to redefine themselves in the 21st century. Taking down these landmarks is a good start.

It is far from “inclusion and tolerance” to tear up and cart off century-old monuments in the dead of night, reply others. There may be blemishes in the past of many renowned historical figures, from Nelson Mandela to Winston Churchill, but we still remember them. It is better to understand the past, not erase it.

You Decide

  1. Do you agree with the decision to remove the four monuments in New Orleans?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to the mayor of New Orleans explaining how you think he should respond to protests surrounding the removal of the statues.

Some People Say...

“You did not have to be evil to own slaves.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That the movement to pull down statues of major Confederate figures has become a major talking point in the USA. And that the mayor of New Orleans has ordered four monuments to be taken down. However, there is still widespread opposition to such decisions.
What do we not know?
Whether removing the monuments will help race relations in an America haunted by the memories of slavery.

Word Watch

Dylann Roof
Roof posed with white supremacist symbols and the Confederate battle flag. In January this year he was sentenced to death.
Echoes
Another such case was a dispute over a statue at Oriel College, Oxford University, of Cecil Rhodes, a British businessman and politician who was prime minister of Cape Colony in Africa. Students campaigned to remove the statue, and the Oxford Union voted to support them. The college’s governing body decided to retain the statue but to seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there.

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