First, I heard moving the statue would be like the Taliban tearing down statues. However, the Taliban destroyed statues and murdered those who disagreed. Preserving a statue in a history museum is hardly the same.
I also heard moving the statue is “erasing the past.” However, the statue itself was part of the southern “Lost Cause” effort to erase the past: the history of slavery, the fight for slavery by the Confederacy in the Civil War, and the violence by white supremacist groups during Reconstruction and the “Jim Crow” segregation era. Moving the statue to a museum context will allow this erased history to be remembered.
I also heard moving the statue would divide our community. Ironically, the statue symbolizes the past racial divisions of our community, but moving the statue would symbolize our striving for unity. Indeed, at the recent council meeting, equal numbers of whites and blacks came together to support moving the statue; it was only whites who wanted the statue where it is.
I also heard we shouldn’t reopen old wounds. However, as a city-owned statue that officially glorifies the Confederate cause to preserve slavery, it is a recurring wound. Moving the statue to a museum would therefore right an ongoing wrong that continually demeans a significant portion of our community.
I also heard moving the statue would be attacking an ancestor of good people today. This is irrelevant. For example, if someone commits murder, we convict them regardless of their children’s virtues.
I also heard moving the statue means we could not honor the Mouton family or Cajun culture. Yet there are many ways to honor the Mouton family and Cajun culture without celebrating Alfred’s fighting for the Confederacy.
I also heard a statue of Clifton Chenier would equalize the recognition of whites and blacks. Yet honoring Clifton Chenier, while appropriate, in no way solves the problem of a government statue that officially glorifies the Confederate cause.
I also heard moving the statue leads to the slippery slope that we can no longer celebrate anyone who owned slaves, such as George Washington. This fear is unfounded. There is a critical difference between celebrating someone because they helped create a country based on freedom and equality, even though they hypocritically owned slaves, versus celebrating someone specifically because they fought to create a country based on slavery and white supremacy.
I hope and believe we can and will unite as a community behind moving the statue to a museum where full and accurate historical truth can finally be told.
Rick Swanson, J.D., Ph.D.
[Editor's Note: Dr. Swanson is preaching to the choir here. Read our take on the issue in our February cover story, "A Monumental Question."]