Letter: Stop glorifying Confederate monuments

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

I am a seventh-generation white Southerner. My ancestors, who came to these mountains in the 18th century, fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and in every major U.S. war throughout the 20th century. Some were slave owners, some owned small businesses, some were sharecroppers, and some were forced as children to work in textile mills. My roots are deep here, and I wish to say that if you want to honor my ancestors, please stop glorifying Confederate monuments.

There is a difference between memory and celebration, and most Confederate monuments are less about memory and more about the celebration of white supremacist control. The monuments, in other words, are about promoting white power across the landscape. We know that the Civil War was fought over slavery. At the time, the Southern states were absolutely clear on that point. Inciting war for the purpose of enslaving others is not something to celebrate, and with or without the monuments, we will not forget that history.

If you want to celebrate my family, look to those who took courageous stands against segregation, fought for women’s voting rights, protested mill-owner abuses in the devastating strikes of the Depression or in other ways worked to ensure that everyone in this nation had/has a place at the table. But don’t revere their cruelest moments, those times when they enslaved fellow human beings, spread propaganda about race, used Christianity to bully and oppress, and caused a war that took the lives of over 600,000 people.

This debate remains a deeply divisive one in this country because too many white people continue to support racism through their words, votes, pocketbooks or willful resistance to examining the truth concerning the issue.

We must do better. If not for our ancestors, then most assuredly for our descendants.

— Darlene O’Dell
Asheville

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43 thoughts on “Letter: Stop glorifying Confederate monuments

  1. JD Curtis

    How could one erect a monument honoring the honorable military service of an individual who served in the Confederate Army without it being viewed as a “celebration of white supremacist control”?
    This writer is apparently uniformed of the many Seminole, Cherokee, Hispanics and Jews who fought for the Confederacy. I guess they were fighting for ‘white supremacy’ too.
    http://www.confederatejews.com/
    http://www.seminolenation-indianterritory.org/cwmiddleboggybattle.htm
    https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pom02

    • Donald

      I totally agree with the above statement, the Irish dident come here to own slaves, they came here for a new life and freedom, like most American’s at the time, I would like to point out a morale question- Lincoln brushed aside the supreme court to make war on the southern States, what good are our laws if the president is above them? Whereas in the southern states there was a movement to free slaves, but the southern president did not exceed his powers to free them anyways, even though that could have turned the war, that in my opinion is the one thing that makes the confederate government better, if the people don’t approve, the president can’t force them, and I think that is something that affects government today, look at who we were given as president.

      • Huhsure

        I love this argument: Lincoln was the lawbreaker.

        Gets you absolutely nowhere, with anyone.

        • luther blissett

          “I love this argument: Lincoln was the lawbreaker.”

          There’s no comparable “the Founding Fathers were the lawbreakers” movement in America. Isn’t that strange?

    • luther blissett

      ‘How could one erect a monument honoring the honorable military service of an individual who served in the Confederate Army without it being viewed as a “celebration of white supremacist control”?’

      By a) not being a white supremacist erecting it; b) not erecting it for symbolic reasons at a time when the continuation of segregationist policy was under debate, especially in a location tied to government or civic life. Easy.

    • Phil Williams

      Mr. Curtis – To build upon your comment – many historians conveniently forget the fact that not an acre of Indian land was taken nor was a single Indian “relocated” by the Confederate government – in fact, many Natives were motivated to throw in their lot with the Confeds in the hope that they might get back some of their ancestral lands or at very least revenge themselves upon the United States, who had betrayed them repeatedly before and after the War.

      In fact, one of the most heartless massacres of Native American women, children and old folks ever perpetrated took place in 1864 while the War was still raging – and was ordered and executed by one John M. Chivington, a colonel of US Volunteers. Chivington’s men attacked a Cheyenne village at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory despite the fact that it was populated by non-combatants and was under a prominently displayed US Flag and a white flag of truce. Chivington, a former Methodist preacher, is credited with the following, heartwarming quote – “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to kill Indians and believe that it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians! Kill and scalp all – big and little. Nits make lice.”

      • Craig Randolph

        Also, in addition to this, rarely see anything mentioned about one of the driving forces hell-bent on the evacuation of Indians in and around this area was the discovery of gold in n.e. Georgia on lands that were considered as belonging to the Cherokees. Ha! Didn’t take too long till any agreement made between the Cherokee and U.S. Government in the past was basically null and void now. The lust for gold manifested ….the ‘Trail of Tears’.

      • Peter Robbins

        The Cherokee and Seminole were among the five “civilized tribes” that owned slaves. They even had their own slave codes. So, while not white supremacists per se, some of their number were free riders. So to speak. But the Native American side of wars fought between whites on American soil has always been complicated. Recall that the most extensive campaign ever mounted against them is known by most people as the American Revolution.

        • Phil Williams

          Yes, from the Rutherford “Punitive Expedition” of 1776 until Wounded Knee in 1890, the US Army and some State and Territorial militias pretty well pursued open warfare against most of the indigenous peoples of the continental US and territories. Not because any of them permitted slavery – but mostly in the name of “Manifest Destiny” because the lands and resources held by Indians were very desirable and ripe for “development” and “progress”.

          • Peter Robbins

            The point being that it is misleading to define the nature of a conflict by outliers who may have joined for their own reasons. As I read the history, the most important impetus for the Civil War — by a wide margin — was the defense of slavery, both for those who owned slaves and those who were afraid of what slaves might do if they ever got a chance for revenge. And the best evidence for that is what the seceding states actually said. But, for now, let’s agree to agree on the Native American issue. Where’s that Josie Wales clip?

          • Peter Robbins

            Dang. Josey Wales. Messed up even with the new editing feature.

          • Phil Williams

            By no means attempting to define the Civil War by the Native American experience from the 16th thru the 20th centuries – the wide range of Native grievances pre-dated African slavery in the New World – going all the way back to the Spanish Conquista , and were pretty much a side-note/issue to the Civil War. It is interesting (although admittedly not very relevant – just an interesting fact) that the last Confederate field commander to surrender was Brigadier General Stand Watie (a Cherokee – also the only Native American to reach General Officer rank on either side during the Civil War).

            And while I agree that the “right” to preservation and expansion of slavery was a major reason for secession, the decision to use military force to address secession was made to preserve the Union. Slavery did not become a major Union cause until the middle of the War – in fact, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only applied to slaves in the States that were in rebellion. Lincoln was a great President, but also a savvy politician who didn’t want to alienate Northerners or “Border State” residents who either owned slaves, benefited from slavery, or had no interest in fighting on the behalf of Southern blacks.

          • Peter Robbins

            J.D. Curtis (to whom you offered support) implied that defense of white supremacy couldn’t have been a cause of the Civil War because some non-whites (and Jews) supported the Confederacy. That’s as silly an argument as I’ve ever seen.

            And the Union didn’t start the war. It responded to an insurrection with force, as any government would. To identify the causes, we must look South.

  2. Deplorable Infidel

    Great points, JD Curtis … nice to see some factual representation.

  3. The Real World

    It is a nicely articulated letter and I can appreciate her sentiment. However, this statement is entirely off-base, “too many white people continue to support racism through their words, votes, pocketbooks or willful resistance”. She is evidencing, like too many others, a blind belief in the propaganda pumped out by politicians, Hollywood and the utterly corrupt mainstream media.

    Within the last year I have been in a handful of social settings where someone made a sweeping comment similar to that. I inquired of each person, “what situations have you observed yourself or someone you know specifically witnessed where obvious racism occurred?” In every case, the person mumbled and bumbled, looked sheepish and had ZERO examples to offer. One guy waved his hand outward and said, “well, I’m sure it’s going on out there in the county.” How’s that for blatant bigotry? Seems the county folk are deemed guilty with no actual transgression being witnessed or reported. (Sigh, clearly, HIS bias and prejudice were lost on him. Funny how that works. Except it’s not funny.)

    Are any of you still wondering about the nationwide repudiation of Democrat politics last Nov? Does anyone reading have the good graces to acknowledge that they can understand how deeply offensive it is to millions of Americans to be blindly castigated in that manner? Lastly, do people from this region ever intend to stop disputing/reliving the Civil War? (For whatever it’s worth, I can assure that the rest of the USA moved on long, long ago.)

    • Peter Robbins

      To be fair to your tongue-tied liberal friends, Real World, sometimes backwoods politicians do still try to get away with voting laws intentionally designed to disadvantage black folks. Some might call that racial discrimination, even when it’s done with surgical precision and explained with uncommon eloquence on national television. But you’re right about your main point, of course. Here in progressive North Carolina, we moved past that sort of thing months ago.

      See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/voter-id-laws-supreme-court-north-carolina.html?_r=0.

      • Huhsure

        And those police killings… there’s no racial component there. No, not at all.

  4. cecil bothwell

    Great letter, Ms. O’Dell, and spot on.
    One particular piece of evidence in Asheville is the Lee monument in front of the Vance Monument. It was installed in 1903 when a resurgence of white supremacists was dismantling Reconstruction era laws, burning crosses and lynching blacks across the South. It was installed as part of the celebration of Jim Crow and the institutional repression of blacks. It was an era when arrest and imprisonment of black men was on an upswing, with their prison labor becoming essentially a new form of slave labor for the white ruling class.

    Quibbling about the cause of the Civil War, who fought in it, and why, is irrelevant. Lenin’s statute came down when his rule was repudiated. Saddam’s statue came down. Most nations don’t celebrate traitors, and Robert E. Lee was precisely that, violating his sworn loyalty to the nation. Time to move on.

    • Phil Williams

      Mr. Bothwell, I believe that the “Lee Monument” you refer to was actually installed in 1926 and was actually one of several identical markers that delineated the route of the “Dixie Highway” that went from Miami, FL to Sault Ste. Marie, MI – these markers were donated by the UDC in memory of General Lee, who had become closely identified with – and even emblematic of – “Dixie” to most folks in both the North and South.

      You say “Time to move on” – but do you really mean that? Many folks insist on revisiting the past, in the words of one revisionist historian, to “rattle the foundations” and make a statement. What exactly would this erasure of history accomplish, other than provide a platform for certain folks to engage in some public breast-smiting that allows them to identify themselves with a cause and ease their personal sense of white guilt/privilege – without having to actually make a personal sacrifice or material contribution to the well-being and improvement of disadvantaged minorities?

      When poverty, crime, disenfranchisement, unemployment, drug abuse, etc., start to be effectively addressed in the many, many parts of this Nation where NO Confederate memorials exist – or have EVER existed – then you might convince me that these proposed attempts at historical whitewashing will ever be anything but empty gestures made to gratify a few people.

        • Phil Williams

          Well, it must’ve worked, for they sure came down in droves during that period – Miami was up and coming in the 20’s…..Don’t know if it was so much a Celebration of Lee himself as it was of the Highway (not all of the route markers depicted Lee and Traveler) – seems that Lee’s association with the South was used to endorse the Highway and the region.

          • Peter Robbins

            The inscription says that the marker was erected by the “United Daughters of the Confederacy” and “friends” in “loving memory” of Robert E. Lee. It goes on to attest to “his worth.” Lee has top billing over the highway. http://www.publicartarchive.org/work/robert-e-leedixie-highway-memorial. I don’t find anything ambiguous about the intent, and I doubt anyone else does, either. Anyone being intellectually honest, anyway.

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Robbins, I don’t dispute what the marker says although I interpret it differently than you do. I heartily dispute Mr. Bothwell’s assertion that it was erected in 1903 to show the blacks in Asheville who was boss and celebrate the return of white supremacy, when the fact is that it was erected in 1926 to mark a highway.

            I also question his factual accuracy in comparing statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate notables to that of Vladimir Lenin – he proclaims that the Soviet Union took down Lenin’s statues “when his rule was repudiated” (?) when, in fact, Lenin’s mug is still visible throughout modern Russia and the former Soviet republics – and his tomb is still a national shrine!

            I don’t think it is intellectually dishonest to assume that the little old ladies of the UDC – and in fact, many – if not most – people in the North and South – remembered a sentimental, romanticized version of General Lee that concentrated on his virtues – after all, communication and the media were vastly different not all that long ago, and it was easier to hide the darker aspects of many prominent people.

            I think that, while they might have been honoring an incomplete picture of a legend-cloaked man, they were probably not glorying in a resurgence of the Klan or an increase in lynchings.

            If folks like Mr. B want to be Monday morning quarterbacks in discussing the history of the past 150 years and in divining the thoughts and motivations of UDC blue-hairs over 90 years ago, then they ought to at least try to get their dates and facts right.

          • Peter Robbins

            I interpret your comment as an admission – finally – that the marker in the center of Asheville does indeed celebrate Robert E. Lee – and in a “loving” fashion at that. Surrender accepted. But now, like Grant, I must press the advantage, and, in this endeavor, I thank you kindly for the stock of ammunition your hasty retreat has left behind.

            You apparently concede that the marker’s loving celebration of Lee reflects a certain romanticized version of history – one that deliberately overlooks important facts to create a more favorable impression than the man deserves. So far, so good. The question then arises: Is it prudent to perpetuate that unsustainable myth in Asheville’s most significant civic space, particularly when the man being celebrated had little, if any connection, to the town itself, when the cause for which he fought is now viewed so negatively by the better historians, and when the romanticized version of the Confederacy (I believe the word “revisionist,” correctly used, applies as well) was employed after the Civil War by so many vile people for so many abhorrent purposes that continue to the present day? The answer to that question depends on a unsentimental examination of the cold facts, not a knee-jerk defense of what one perceives as heritage. It will not do to change the subject, or to question the merits of other historical figures, or to attack the motives of the people questioning the value of Confederate monuments in particular civic settings, or to resort to any other dodges we see on this thread. Just balance the pros and cons of continuing to lovingly celebrate – in Asheville’s most important public space – a largely inaccurate and misleading myth that bears little resemblance to the man himself, has virtually nothing to do with the city itself, and most certainly cannot be deemed to reflect the values of the citizens today.

            Start with the Atlantic article to which I linked earlier and, in particular, the story where Lee allegedly ordered brine to be poured into the wounds of a slave he had just whipped for trying to escape. Still in a loving mood? Shall we add an asterisk?

          • luther blissett

            “I don’t think it is intellectually dishonest to assume that the little old ladies of the UDC – and in fact, many – if not most – people in the North and South – remembered a sentimental, romanticized version of General Lee that concentrated on his virtues ”

            Granting your excuse — why might that have been? Perhaps it’s because the Confederacy has been excused for 150 years? And the sentimental memorial-building of the blue-hairs was part of what makes possible the revisionism of the Jim Crow enforcers and lynch mobs.

            To build upon Peter Robbins, Asheville as a city has no real Civil War “heritage”; the Vance memorial is mostly defended by reference to Vance’s post-war career opening up WNC via the railroads. The Lee memorial mostly just celebrates the ability of people to mythologize the Confederacy in privileged civic space. (The history of Eagle Street and the Block are important here: they represent an alternative space for institutions.)

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Robbins – No new “admissions” here – the article from the “Atlantic” made some valid points and also made some fuzzy ones – none of them are revelations or epiphanies to me. I reckon my point is that ideas of what is being “glorified” or “celebrated” is rather subjective and that much modern criticism leveled at historical figures fails to take the whole picture into account.

            I have been in and around Asheville for a pretty long while, and I cannot recall ever seeing folks rallying round or cuddling lovingly up to the Dixie Highway marker with Lee’s likeness on it – in fact, a lot of people didn’t even realize it was there until folks recently started complaining about it. There is another one off Highway 25, next to Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher – not sure where the others were located but there were 8 or 10 of them in the Carolinas at one time.

            My primary beef was with Mr. Bothwell’s statement, which contained a couple of factual errors. I have a secondary one with the author of the “Atlantic” article in that he lays responsibility for “hundreds of thousands of American deaths” at the feet of one Confederate general – not even mentioning that the tragic norm of the time was to use Napoleonic tactics against modern weaponry throughout the War. Grant, Sherman, and Burnside were criticized even in the North as either butchers or incompetents who wasted the lives of Union Soldiers in ill-planned attacks.

            He also conveniently ignores one “Yuge” fact with respect to American deaths in the Civil War. That one inescapable fact was President Lincoln’s decision to use a military solution to address secession – and the fact that this decision had NOTHING to do with freeing slaves. The President’s stated goal was preservation of the Union at all costs. Many Northerners, including many abolitionists, thought that a bloodless solution was preferable and that the Confederacy – and slavery – would fail. Lincoln’s decision actually precipitated the reluctant secession of North Carolina and Tennessee.

            Don’t get me wrong, I greatly admire Lincoln and consider him a great President – but he made mistakes and had flaws in his thinking as well. Most of the principal players in the greatest American tragedy were extremely complex and often conflicted humans who were confronted with a situation that I hope we will never see again. There were two sides to the story, and remembering both sides should not involve erasure or one-sided criticism.

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Blissett, I am not trying to excuse anyone. However, I don’t understand why some folks insist that we “move on”, and in the same breath, insist that the past be continually revisited every time it is decided that the memory of some historical figure offends someone.

            The Confederacy was not “excused” – the former Confederate States were subjected to defeat and military reconstruction. The Reconstruction was poorly executed and inconsistently applied/enforced in some States/regions and created a backlash once troops were withdrawn.

            As I have mentioned before – I would more readily accept your arguments and those of Mr. Robbins and Mr. Bothwell if someone could show me where the absence of Confederate memorials and monuments has resulted in a better life for minorities in places like Chicago, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, etc.

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Blissett, I would also add that, while I agree that there was not much major action in WNC during the War, I would disagree with your comment that the area has “no real Civil War heritage”. Just take a walk thru any of the older cemeteries in the area and take a moment to actually look at the stones. The area provided many troops to both sides, and the area felt various impacts of the War as well.

          • bsummers

            Very well said, Peter. Couldn’t have said it better.

          • luther blissett

            I was being very precise when I said that “Asheville as a city” has no real Civil War heritage, so it’d be useful for you to acknowledge what I actually said.

            The area obviously does have a Civil War history — a complex one, like most of southern Appalachia — but it is tied to families and individuals, not to cities that took shape in the late 1800s. Asheville is not Wilmington.

            Perhaps Bobby Lee’s Dixie Highway rock needs to be accompanied by a stone saying “General Sherman Didn’t Stop Here Either”?

          • Peter Robbins

            Here’s a compromise: We replace the stodgy horse-thing with a bobblehead General Lee waving from a classic roadster and inviting them Yanks to come on down the Dixie Highway for that good old fried chicken and okra. It still offends, but at least it does so more inclusively.

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Blissett, I acknowledge your “very precise” statement. Hence, the fact that Asheville has comparatively few actual “Civil War” monuments other than those erected to commemorate specific regiments and individuals – even the Vance Memorial is not a “Civil War” monument. Sure, most are tied to individuals – but many of these, like Vance, made up and built the City and County, contributed to the history of the region, and worked and lived and died here in Asheville and WNC.

            The Civil War monuments have not exactly overpowered the landscape – even in the civic spaces that you have mentioned, most are fairly nondescript, showing only an inscription. Even the Dixie Highway marker, a route marker dedicated to of one of the “patron saints” of the UDC, was installed decades after the War and is rather small – but it still apparently causes some folks to gather up their skirts and scream. Did a Yankee build and tout the Dixie Highway to glorify slavery, secession and Jim Crow by allowing the UDC to use that occasion to honor an historically important individual??

            It just appears that some people – many of whom are newcomers to the area (the author of the original article excepted) – are getting ‘way down amongst the weeds and looking for things to get offended about and reading all manner of personal opinions and emotions into inanimate objects and viewing history thru their own 21st century perceptions without any historical context.

            Mr. Robbins mentions an “unsentimental examination of the cold facts” but the anti-monument folks sure seem to get mighty heated up emotionally on the subject – and there are other “cold facts” that ought to be considered but are almost always ignored or brushed aside as irrelevant by some of the more single-minded among you.

          • luther blissett

            “but it still apparently causes some folks to gather up their skirts and scream.”

            Interesting choice of language there. But now we’ve come full circle: the UDC “blue-hairs” were a major contributor to the emergence and consolidation of Lost Cause mythology in the south, with its elevation of Lee and other figures in what Charles Reagan Wilson calls “southern civil religion.” Monuments like the Lee markers mostly celebrate the privilege of those who had the right to erect them at a particular point in time.

          • Phil Williams

            Ol’ Foghorn’s character & many quotations (“It’s a joke, I say, a joke, Son!”) were either taken from Senator Beauregard Claghorn on the Fred Allen Show – or Claghorn was taken from Foghorn – I don’t recall which debuted first!

    • Phil Williams

      And, Mr. Bothwell, I am not so sure that I am willing to accept your views on anything to do with history – at least until you start using some factual examples to illustrate your points. The landscape of Russia and parts of the former USSR are studded with statues and images of Vladimir Illyich Lenin. Lenin’s tomb – and his embalmed corpse – are still maintained and publicly displayed in Red Square to this very day. Comrade Lenin’s remains have been on display since 1924, except for a brief spell during WWII – he still gets a nice makeover and a new suit every so often. Have seen it with my own eyes as I have visited Russia.

  5. The Real World

    All I can do is try but, as I figured, the good graces are not there.

    Own your own bigotry, folks, then maybe we can bridge gaps and move forward. I will not be holding my breath for that ownership to occur.

    • bsummers

      Are any of you still wondering about the nationwide repudiation of Democrat politics last Nov?

      You mean when the Democratic candidate for President got 3 million more votes than her opponent? Is that the “nationwide repudiation” you’re referring to? How graceless of us to not concede your distortion of history as truth.

      As for unacknowledged racism, here’s an example that has echoes of what we’re experiencing now with Trump’s ‘yuuuge’ victory in the last election. During the Gore v. Bush debacle, a co-worker of mine made the argument, “The only reason Gore got more votes was because all the blacks voted for him.” In his mind, that (completely false) fact clearly meant that Gore’s vote tally was somehow suspect, and it justified taking away the victory & giving it to the second place finisher. He was greatly insulted when I pointed out the racism of his statement, and furthermore, he refused to admit that it was false. He was staring his own deeply ingrained racism in the face and couldn’t see it.

      Would anyone like to look at the Gore v. Bush statement above & tell us why it’s both false and racist?

      (Hint: The answer is not because only 98% percent or whatever voted for Gore, not “all”.)

  6. Paul Kersey

    Those who wish to tear down war monuments to the dead as a way of symbolically challenging ideas they don’t agree with remind me of the Taliban blowing up Buddhist statues in order to reinforce the supremacy of their particular worldview.

    Beware of those who wish to cleanse society of its its history and impose a utopian worldview in its place. History has revealed that such thinking is totalitarian and wholly illiberal in nature and that rational people ought to be wary of it.

    Cultural Marxism and political correctness reflects a utopian worldview that has no regard for the nuances and complexities of history. Such nuances are swept aside in broad strokes.

    Where is the basic decency that we ought to afford the memory of the dead, no matter what side they were on in that long-past war? For cultural Marxists it is swept aside by the desire to purge the world of a perceived evil, as part of a “cosmic war” of good and evil. That is the thinking of zealots.

    The American civil war was fought for a variety of political reasons that included slavery but was not limited to it. Most soldiers in the Confederacy were not slave-owners and did not fight for that reason. But cultural Marxists would sweep their memory away for political gain and re-write history to reinforce a simplistic worldview.

    For many still, Confederate statues and symbols are not symbols of white supremacy; they are simply war memorials from a bygone era. Those who would blindly tear down war memorials to the dead exhibit a breathtaking narrow-mindedness, a willingness to sweep away history.

    The worldview that is reflected in this cultural cleansing effort is itself extremely racial divisive. Talk of “white supremacy” ignores the reality African-Americans have more opportunity to rise above poverty in this country than almost anywhere else on Earth — and many have gladly taken that opportunity, despite the damage inflicted by the welfare state in recent decades.

    The civil rights movement of the 1960s was successful in bringing about a more egalitarian society, but that is endangered now by the racially divisive BLM movement, which seeks to fan the flames of racism. This is not good for anyone of any color.

    This is a land of opportunity for people of all colors and backgrounds. It is a land of equal opportunity, and where it is not, that needs to be corrected, but you are not going to do that by trying to erase war monuments.

    Look up the work of African-American thinker Dr. Thomas Sowell to understand these issues. According to him “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are fictions, rhetorical sleights of hand which gloss over the complex realities of American life.

    Don’t use war memorials to the dead as symbols of revolution against what is still the best political system in the world for providing basic freedoms, economic opportunities, and democratic values — for all. The American experiment has not been perfect; it is a work in progress still, and work still to be done to establish those egalitarian values in public policy, but you don’t accomplish this by sweeping away the past.

    All you will end up doing through such efforts is to foster resentment and discord. What this country needs is coming together and reconciliation, not more discord.

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