There is an increased focus on history in the U.S. as it relates to slavery, and racism. Some of the demands are to remove statues that are deemed by some to be racist, or at a minimum, depicting people who’d kept slaves.
People seem to fall pretty squarely into one of two groups. 1st group...Remove all offensive statues and symbols of hate or racism. 2nd group...Don’t erase history, lest it be repeated.
In the past, I admit to have been mainly in group 2. I don’t think people in group 2 are against removing statues because they like, or enjoy the statues. Rather, I want to think that many feel the same way I used to feel. That is, it puts the issues in the public forum so we are reminded of them daily.
Recently, I’ve changed position on this issue. This was an evolution brought on by a couple of key things. First, remembering my time stationed in Germany, I could not think of one publicly displayed statue, sign, or poster that depicted Hitler, or the Nazi Party. Of course there wouldn’t be. That era was and still is a stain on that great country, much like the era of slavery is to the U.S.
Secondly, there has been more coverage and journalism regarding the statues people want removed. This has highlighted some disgusting facts.
I submit an example. How many people know the name Nathan Bedford Forrest? I didn’t until recently. Forrest was a Confederate General. One of many who were more than happy to allow more than a half million fellow Americans to perish in the Civil War to protect slavery. He was also the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK.
There is a 25-foot statue of Forrest in Nashville, TN. It was designed by a man who was a Co-Founder of a White Supremacist organization. The man, James Kershaw, was also the former lawyer of James Earl Ray (the man who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).
The statue, when completed, was dedicated by a member of the Sons of Confederate Soldiers (among other confederate descendant groups), with land authorized to be cleared for the statue by then State Sen. Douglas Henry (D).
So, we have a statue of a racist that was designed by a racist, depicting a man who fought to keep slavery, endorsed by a U.S. Senator, flanked by Confederate Flags. If all of these things weren’t problematic enough, would you be surprised to find out this statue was not erected in the 1800s, or early 1900s? It was erected in 1998. Let that sink in.
If more people knew who these statues were of, and who wanted them erected, I’d bet we would all want them down.
People in group two are concerned that the removal of these statues will erase history. To that I offer this; The books will always TELL the history, but statues are designed to CELEBRATE history. Is this history the type we should celebrate?
Michael Vande Voort
Editor’s note: The statue described in this column is privately owned by Nashville resident Bill Dorris. It sits on his property.