In response to the turmoil of the violent rally in Charlottesville, under the placating title of “white nationalists,” many states have decided it is finally time to take down their Confederate monuments. In Baltimore, a city with a recent history of racial injustice, four Confederate monuments have been taken down under the instruction of Mayor Catherine Pugh. In Gainesville, Fla. and New Orleans, more monuments have already been removed. Other cities, such as Annapolis, Md.; Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Lexington, Ky. have proposed to remove their most infamous Confederate monuments.
In Durham, N.C., protesters took it upon themselves to take down a statue of a Confederate Soldier. The removal of this statue on Monday, which stood in front of the Durham County Courthouse, has led to the arrest of four protesters.
The discussion to get rid of Confederate monuments is not a new one. Those protesting the removals claim that tearing down these monuments is erasing our nation’s history. Donald Trump himself recently took to Twitter to condemn the removal of such monuments, saying that he finds it “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can't change history, but you can learn from it.”
Trump’s all-too-common rhetoric glosses over the hurt and injustice these monuments stand for, choosing to defend their beauty and history over what they represent today.
Monuments serve to represent the most outstanding parts of our past, and an intrinsic part of a city’s identity. While we cannot change history, we can choose which parts of our history we celebrate and which parts we condemn.
The removal of certain monuments and the impending replacement of them suggest a commitment to improving the rhetoric around harmful historical memories. New monuments to come can serve as artistic symbols of growth and change, offering hope for a more unified future void of white supremacy and domestic terrorism.
The architectural design of a city includes its monuments. The removal of these monuments is as much an artistic statement as it is a historical one. It is these cities saying: we don’t want our art and our structures to cause any more hurt.