The Trump administration has exacerbated tensions across America and brought numerous questions into focus, including the question of what to do about the persistent strains of racism and bigotry that afflict American society. You’d think that it wouldn’t be hard to dismiss such an affliction, and yet here we are anyway.
One of the focal points of the debate over racism in the United States has been the numerous statues honoring Confederate war heroes that pockmark the United States. Many of these statues honor men who risked their lives and led other men to risk their lives in defense of the “right” to keep slaves, and yet, some have maintained that the statues should be left alone.
Germany, with its own sordid past of Nazism, doesn’t allow public displays of support for Nazism, and yet here in America, public displays of support for the Confederacy are supposedly just “history and culture” — or whatever.
To be clear, that’s an opinion held to by only a portion of an American society, but it’s a large enough portion to make Americans confront the question.
Among those on the opposite side of the debate are the leaders of Baltimore, Maryland, whose mayor last year ordered the removal of all four Confederate statues that pockmarked the city.
Fast forward to 2018 and the park that used to house two of the statues has now been renamed to honor hero of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman.
Local media quoted community activist Marvin “Doc” Cheatham on the dedication of part of Wyman Park Dell as “Harriet Tubman Grove” as saying:
‘We officially asked the mayor of the City of Baltimore to take down the two Confederate statues, and at the time we were asked what did we want in its place and without a doubt, everyone there said this needs to be Harriet Tubman.’
Tubman, who is from Maryland, died 105 years ago Saturday, when the dedication ceremony took place.
Although the story of Baltimore’s Confederate statues has a somewhat happy ending, the story of other statues around the country does not.
It was because of the city’s plans to remove a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee that thousands of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, late last year, sparking a weekend of violence that ended with three dead.
Two police officers were killed while trying to patrol the gathering, and a counterprotester was killed when a white nationalist rammed the crowd she was in with his car.
Besides the fact that in the initial aftermath of that violence, the president refused to single out the white nationalists for any special condemnation, he also explicitly laid out his support for the white nationalists’ cause of keeping up statues honoring Confederate war heroes.
In the face of the president’s disinterest in their cause, people back in Baltimore remain optimistic.
As Baltimore Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke put it:
‘It helps bring the community values to important places and helps to weave together the community. This place is really interesting. Since the statues were removed, it has become a gathering place.’
Featured Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images