This article is part of a Face Off series. Its opposing article, “The Downward Spiral of Removing Historically Significant Monuments,” can be found here.
One of our recent national controversies lies around taking down monuments. Throughout the United States, and in other countries as well, a discussion has arisen: should monuments that represent painful and egregious things about the past be taken down? My answer is a resounding yes.
Here in the United States, we should make sure that museums and history books accurately depict what happened in the past, so our citizens are fully informed about the history of our country. In order to “create a more perfect union,” we must talk about the past openly and fully. But monuments that honor individuals who contributed to the enslavement of a people and added to a history that we should not wish to repeat cannot be allowed to remain standing. There is a marked difference between remembering history and glorifying its bigoted villains.
This issue—the glorification of controversial historical figures—is not just domestic. Mozambique, a country that was colonized by the Portuguese, retains widespread reminders in the form of statues of the violence and oppression Mozambicans faced. This especially includes Black Mozambicans, who faced the most discrimination at the hands of the Portuguese, who were largely white. When I was in Mozambique, a relative told me about how Blacks were not allowed to enter certain, nicer parts of the city. Those places belonged to the Portuguese. My dad certainly remembers the war and the subjugation, indeed, there is no shortage of reminders in the form of monuments. No Black Mozambican has forgotten the tumultuous past.
While many of the statues were removed after the Civil War, I noticed when I visited Mozambique that there are certainly still reminders. Considering the pain they caused the Mozambicans, seeing the remnants of this past seemed like an awful and unnecessary reminder of a past that will certainly not be forgotten. And actually, after the civil war was fought, Mozambicans fought to remove lots of reminders of the Portuguese, in way to show that this were their country and to rid themselves of reminders. As of 2015, however, there was still a public statue of Salazar, a past dictator. I would argue that it does no good to memorialize the Portuguese, who colonized an entire country and hurt millions of people. History is taught in schools, and none of the older people will ever be able to forget the bloodshed and pain they witnessed.
The same logic applies to Confederate statues. Why should we commemorate and honor anyone who championed enslavement of other human beings? Why should we continue to openly honor people who committed treason against the United States? People argue that this is a part of our history, and I do not disagree. That does not mean those reminders belong out in the open, representing who we are as a country. I would certainly hope the United States does not want to hold on to negative beliefs and ideals to display who we are as a nation. We will not overlook history, we will just not openly honor the terrible things we did in the past.
We should not forget our history, and the old adage remains true: history repeats itself. However, these monuments do not serve as a reminder for us to better. If anything, monuments honoring confederate leaders or colonizers serve as a tangible reminder for oppressed and marginalized people that they do not belong in this country, which is patently untrue. The Civil War was not about state’s rights. Rather, it was about treason and upholding slavery.
We cannot move forward as a country or as a global community if we insist on clinging to the worst parts of our past and using them to continue to define us. I am an American, and I do not want to be represented by men who openly hated people who look like me and believed racial minorities were inferior. I want to be represented by the people who created the solid foundations of the United States and who stand for a bright future that believes in equality and goodness for all.
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