This year has seen a number of controversies relating to Confederate statues standing all around North America. While each case has its differences, whether it be the execution of the removals, the preservation and storage following it, or the reactions each case has seen, there is one aspect that remains consistent: We, as Southerners, are expected to sit idly by while our heritage is covered up and removed (or “relocated”, as some would prefer to say) in the name of progress and political correctness. Any opposing arguments to the removal of these monuments are regarded as ramblings of a bigot and a racist. A very marginal percentage of the populations cries that these longstanding tributes to our forefathers (the Robert E. Lee at the Tivoli [Lee] Circle in New Orleans statue stood for over 130 years) and a city council votes to tear them down. Without consideration for the voices of Southern Heritage, removal and replacement begins at the cost of the taxpaying Southerners.
Along with the Robert E. Lee statue, the New Orleans city council voted and approved the tear down of 3 other Confederate monuments. The Jefferson Davis Monument, commissioned in 1911 as a dedication to the 50th Anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as President of the Confederate States of America, was removed on May 11, 2017. The General Beauregard Equestrian, constructed in 1913 statue was removed on May 15th. Finally, though it was the first to get the axe, the Battle of Liberty Place Monument, erected 1891, was removed April 24th, 2017. It’s worth noting here that the Robert E. Lee statue was named one of New Orleans “11 important statues” in 2011. In an article hosted by NPR (Source below), Tegan Wendland notes that many residents remembered the statue as a neighborhood marker that they could observe on their way to school. Wendland also recounts stories residents had told her about their parents speaking of family members who had fought in the Civil War. These statues commemorated the brave who fought for blood and soil; these monuments were a nod to the courage of the proud Southern man.
Near the end of May, word came that the Lake Eola Confederate monument in Orlando, Florida was to be removed and relocated to Greenwood Cemetery. The Johnny Reb statue was a gift to the city of Orlando from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911. It originally stood on what is now Magnolia St and had looked out over Lake Eola for 100 years. The removal and subsequent replacement, called for by blogger David Porter; quickly approved by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, despite a bill of over $100,000 – an unnecessary financial burden for the taxpayers to bear. Protests and gatherings were organized around the monument following the decision, but the outcry fell on deaf ears. I joined a group of 10 individuals on May 20th to see the statue one last time and to voice our disapproval regarding the Mayor’s decision to remove some of the few remaining remnants of our heritage. Though small in numbers, our sentiments were clear, and we discussed our position with any who approached us. We met a great deal of individuals who had no knowledge of what the monument represented, and many who were just as disgusted as us that a reminder of local history was being removed under the guise of “fairness”. Our ultimate quarrel with local governments who choose to remove Confederate statues is not necessarily the removal, but that our voices are ignored, our families and ancestors are not considered, and we do not get a vote.
Unfortunate as it is, Southerners lost that battle; we lost in New Orleans, we lost in Orlando, we lost in Gainesville, and we lost in Tampa. That being said, the war is not over. The cities that attack our pride, our culture, our families, and our heritage, belittling them until all those around us see only the word “racist” on our foreheads, fail to realize the fires they’re igniting. Our pride grows stronger daily, our numbers increase with each fight for preservation, and most importantly: we are not concrete or stone. You cannot move us, nor cover us up; we will endure and we will keep our fathers’ heritage alive.