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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Don’t celebrate hatred

<f what to do with Confederate monuments has taken over the media, polarized different parts of the country, and sparked debates about the nature of history. But to me, it’s not that complicated: there is a difference between memory and celebration. Why celebrate something that was objectively horrific?

This past August, I woke up one morning to a headline in The New York Times about my city: the mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, had had Confederate statues in the city removed overnight. Unlike the news that came the last time I woke up to national coverage of my hometown, the year of Freddie Gray’s death and the subsequent protests, the news this time was uplifting. Perhaps, I thought, Baltimore is learning from its past—not only its recent past, but the past of the whole country.

Or, given the debates that sprawled across my social media feeds this summer, perhaps not. It’s ridiculous how controversial this issue has become. We should build statues to Harriet Tubman. We should build statues to Frederick Douglass. We should build statues to the victims of slavery, violence, hatred, and war in America. But we should not and must not build statues to their perpetrators.

My opinion on this question has been shaped by my home, the city of Baltimore—a city that has always seemed to exist “in between,” neither southern nor northern. It’s home to both a museum dedicated to Frederick Douglass and a park that was called “Robert E. Lee Park” until 2015. I love Baltimore, but this “in between” quality hurts it and the people who call it home. Do we condemn racism or don’t we? We all must answer this question—and by removing these statues, Baltimore and other cities have signaled that they are at least trying to do so. City officials are taking action to make their cities more welcoming to all people, and that should be celebrated, even though it’s been too long in coming. And yet the removal of these reprehensible and unnecessary statues still makes national news and provokes angry debates. Simply not supporting blatant racism still angers enough people to merit discussion in The New York Times; that is shameful.

Today, statues and monuments help us understand ancient civilizations’ values and ethics, not just their history. I hope that, hundreds of years from now, the historians of the future will be judging us not by statues to those who fought for racism and slavery, but by statues to those who defeated them.

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