The Three Confederate Monuments on the Capitol Grounds Aren’t Going Anywhere (Unless Someone Tears Them Down) | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Three Confederate Monuments on the Capitol Grounds Aren’t Going Anywhere (Unless Someone Tears Them Down)

Posted by on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 7:04 PM

click to enlarge 106_front_inscription.jpg

Rather than relocate three Confederate monuments from the state Capitol grounds to a Civil War battlefield museum some forty-five miles away in Bentonville, as Governor Cooper wants, the North Carolina Historical Commission opted this morning to put a Band-Aid on the problem—or rather, signage to contextualize these participation trophies for a failed treasonous rebellion and funding for a monument to African Americans.

For T. Anthony Spearman, president of the state NAACP, the decision was “a measure of maintaining the status quo in our state. It seems to me that if justice is going to be done in the state of North Carolina, it’s going to be found outside of the law.”

In other words, it’s going to happen like Monday night, when protesters took matters into their own hands and toppled Silent Sam on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, or last year, when demonstrators tore down a Confederate statue in Durham. While Spearman said he doesn’t condone vandalism, he argued that these protests are the inevitable repercussions of legislative inaction.


“We’re going to really need to consider how we can begin changing policies that are entrenching these kinds of emblems of hate in this state, because even to move or replace [them] to somewhere else is to transport hate to another location,” Spearman said.


Indeed, as the commission noted, state law makes even relocating so-called objects of remembrance nigh impossible. A 2015 law—passed in the wake of a mass shooting in an African-American church in Charleston, after which Charleston took down a Confederate flag from its Capitol—says they can only be moved to a site of “similar prominence” when necessary to preserve the structures or when they interfere with construction or transportation projects. Because no location in the state of North Carolina could possibly be as prominent as the Capitol grounds—and certainly not Bentonville, which you probably can’t find on a map—the law, in essence, permanently renders these monuments immovable.

In a statement following the decision, Cooper called for the law to be changed: “It is time for North Carolina to realize that we can document and learn from our history without idolizing painful symbols. North Carolina is welcoming to all, and our most prominent public spaces should reflect that.”

Fat chance, replied House Speaker Tim Moore. In his own statement, Moore said the commission showed that “civil discourse among the public can prevail over the criminal actions of a violent mob”—referring to the Silent Sam protest, which wasn’t actually violent toward anything but a century-old chunk of white-supremacist metal—and supported the commission's recommendations so that the monuments “can continue to serve as visual reminders of the social progress our state has achieved.”

(Let that twirl around your brain for a minute: We should maintain monuments erected in praise of a war fought to maintain African chattel slavery and the decades of white supremacy that followed so we can pat ourselves on the back because we don’t do that now. This is, of course, the same Tim Moore whose Republican Party is right now trying to enshrine a voter ID amendment—modeled after a struck-down law that a federal court previously said “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision”—in the state constitution, and that has fought to gerrymander black voters into political irrelevance since the moment they took power.)

The three resolutions approved today by the commission acknowledge that while the monuments are “an over-representation and over-memorialization” of the state’s Confederate past, that the commission itself is powerless to recommend their removal. As a consolation prize, the commission voted to recommend signs be placed alongside the statues to “provide a balanced context,” while also asking the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to “plan, design, and raise” funds for one or more memorials recognizing the contributions and struggles of the state’s African Americans.


During a subcommittee hearing, Commissioner Valerie Ann Johnson, the Mott Professor of Africana Women’s Studies at Bennett College in Greensboro, called the statues “a continual visual presence of the ideology of white supremacy.”


“At present, the state Capitol grounds reflect an immortality that is not acceptable,” she said. “It reflects an adherence to ideas, practices, and a way of life that is oppressive, unjust, and rooted in racism, misogyny, fascism, and hatred. Moving the statues does not hide history. Instead, it will allow us to amplify all the voices in North Carolina.”

The only African American among the five subcommittee members, she was outvoted. 


Commission chairman David Ruffin—noting that he is a descendant of Edmund Ruffin, an outspoken slaveowner and secessionist who claimed to fire the first shot of the Civil War (and committed suicide after the South surrendered—voted to keep the monuments in place.


“We don’t deny history. We don’t deny the ability to constantly interpret, it contextual it, and most importantly learn from it,” Ruffin said.

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

After the subcommittee vote, audience member Ashley Popio stood and lambasted the decision before being dragged from the building by police. Popio was charged with two misdemeanors for “intentionally causing a public disturbance” and “willfully and unlawfully obstructing a police officer,” according to a state police spokeswoman. Soon thereafter, the commission ratified the subcommittee’s decision.

Outside, Gabrielle Middlebrooks, an organizer with the World Workers Party of Durham, was in tears.

“These statues need to go. I’m sick of the Confederacy, I’m sick of white supremacy, I’m sick of feeling like a fucking nigger in this state,” said Middlebrooks, who is African American. “I’m a person. I deserve to be treated like it. I deserve to feel like it every single place that I go, including the state Capitol, where I pay my goddamn taxes.”

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

The commission’s decision was a victory for Frank Powell, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who (inaccurately) said calling slavery the cause of the Civil War was an “oversimplification.” He shrugged off suggestions that the commission’s decision could lead to more statues falling at the hands of protesters.


“We are a nation of laws, and we must follow the laws whether you like the law or not,” Powell said.


Asked if that meant he wouldn’t have opposed segregation—which, after all, was the law until the 1960s—Powell responded, “I don’t have a position. That’s out of my purview.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Comments

I was very confuse when my lover that i married 25 years told me she needs a divorce simply because …

by Donald Jo on Triangle Residents Advised to Seek Safety from Hurricane Florence's Floodwaters (News)

I remember putting on weight after graduating from State and getting a desk job - even with still going to …

by Aiden on Lime Joins In on the Electric Scooter Game in Raleigh (News)

Most Recent Comments

I was very confuse when my lover that i married 25 years told me she needs a divorce simply because …

by Donald Jo on Triangle Residents Advised to Seek Safety from Hurricane Florence's Floodwaters (News)

I remember putting on weight after graduating from State and getting a desk job - even with still going to …

by Aiden on Lime Joins In on the Electric Scooter Game in Raleigh (News)

Maybe a small metal flag..attached to the top of the back wheel with identifying number....disputed claims could be based on …

by Charles Tom Mclaurin on Lime Joins In on the Electric Scooter Game in Raleigh (News)

I think from what I've observed...these scooters need some kind of..number that's visible from a good distance so unsafe operators …

by Charles Tom Mclaurin on Lime Joins In on the Electric Scooter Game in Raleigh (News)

What I fail to understand is that they spray this on "large fields" Do they mean fields where crops grow? …

by John Ryan on UPDATED: Study Shows N.C. Hog Farms Spray Hog Poop on Neighbors’ Homes; Cooper Vetoes HB 467 (News)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation