Monday, June 29, 2020

On Removing Statues and Renaming Names

I'm of two multiple minds on the issue, as I am on most things:

  • on one hand I never give a thought to statues or names--who or what they stand for.  I just accept them as part of the environment, rather like the weather or gravity.
  • on the other hand I know intellectually, if not emotionally, that some people do, at least at some times.  I really doubt that a black person who drove through Alexandria every day on the way to work gave much of a thought to the statue of the Confederate soldier which used to stand at the intersection of the two main streets.  More likely their attention was on navigating the traffic.  But I accept the idea that such a statue could, on occasion, be disturbing.
  • on the third hand, my two positions above are coming from my background as a white 79 year old American male.  If I make the effort, I can imagine perhaps a German street with a statue of Hitler or an idealized Wehrmacht soldier and a Jewish person's reaction to it.  If I come at the issue from that direction, as putting myself in the place of a Jew confronting a statue or name which commemorated the Third Reich, it's a lot easier to empathize with the reaction of a black American confronting a reminder of the Confederacy or of slavery.
My contrarian side is a bit activated on the third point--some resistance to the implied comparison of the German treatment of the Jews and American slavery. But the above describes my position today.

I think in the long run the specifically Confederate statues and names will be removed.  That set of symbolic victories will be enough in the long run to reduce the feeling behind the movement.  As is usual with humans we'll end with a mixed bag of things, with no clear algorithm evident. 

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