June 23, 2015 12:38 AM

Less than a week after a racist, delusional, Confederate flag-embracing man murdered nine black church members in Charleston, S.C., the national conversation has turned to how we, especially in the South, commemorate the Civil War. If you call it the War Between the States or, God forbid, the War of Northern Aggression, read no further; you’re an apologist for the “Lost Cause” and you don’t need the stress.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, according to nola.com’s Jarvis DeBerry, is now wondering aloud whether the many monuments to Confederate “heroes” scattered around the Big Easy have a place in the city’s future. Most prominent among them is the towering monument to General Robert E. Lee atop an obelisk in the downtown circle that bears his name.

According to Landrieu’s office: “These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols – statues, monuments, street names, and more – still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world. Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future.”

But what about Lafayette? We have several streets named after Confederate figures, Johnston Street among them, and the southwestern gateway to Downtown bears a marble monument depicting Gen. Alfred Mouton, a Confederate brigadier general who died at the battle of Mansfield in 1864. This monument stands in front of what was once Lafayette City Hall at the corner of a street named for Thomas Jefferson and Gen. Robert E. Lee.

On April Fool's Day 2014, The Independent reported that the Gen. Mouton statue had been removed from Downtown. It was prank that generated plenty of outrage among readers, but is it time to really have that conversation?

Unveiled in 1922 by two granddaughters of Gen. Mouton who were joined by the governor of Louisiana and members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument actually predates the City Hall by more than 15 years, but it’s fair to say that Lafayette once honored — and still does passively — a man who fought and died to preserve an institution that enslaved the ancestors of nearly a quarter of Lafayette’s current population. He wasn’t fighting for states’ rights or over tariffs, as the apologists have spun it in the intervening years since 1865; he was fighting for slavery.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the Confederate flag to be removed the grounds of the state capitol there. The speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives has called for the removal of the flag image from within the Mississippi state flag. And New Orleans is considering removing monuments to the men who, by any reading of the U.S. Constitution, were traitors against the Union and fought to preserve the institution of slavery.

Is Lafayette ready to have this conversation?


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