Editor’s note: This editorial was written as a dissenting editorial. It received 8 votes in favor, zero votes opposing and one vote abstaining. Because of the votes it received, it becomes a staff editorial.
“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends on the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth,” wrote Lyman Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in 1980 when he was the editor of the newspaper Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer.
Within the post-colonialism literary theory, a specific term is studied and applied to the literature written specifically during this period. “The other” represents the concept of a group of people finding differences to justify stereotypical ideas and images, which leads to marginalization. For too long white people looked to Native Americans and Black people as not humans, but as the other. One looked at another and judged him too different to be considered valuable. “The other” is not just a literary term, it is a psychological term used to describe how people tend to separate themselves from those that are different. With all of our differences, one thing is certain, value should not be based on the eye of the beholder; value is individual and never given or taken by someone else.
Thus, symbols that value one group more than the other destroy a community. We at Scroll believe that the statues of the Confederacy are symbols and ideals that no longer represent the beliefs of our modern society. We do not only ask for their removal, we plead for justice and empathy towards those that have suffered too much for too long.
Ignorance is not bliss. Although cultural biases are real and always have been, we have come to a point where we know better. What was culturally acceptable in the past should stay in the past. As our knowledge and culture change, so should our outward symbols of admiration. We not only know that all lives matter, but we especially know that those who were once considered “untamable creatures” truly matter — no one has the right to decide which life matters the most. Understanding the movement of Black Lives Matter is not saying all lives matter, it is understanding that certain groups have been, in world history, considered less than human. Thus, we stand with the line “Black Lives Matter.” We have come to a moment in history where traditions must be reviewed and updated.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “There is no doubt among reputable historians that the Confederacy was established upon the premise of white supremacy and that the South fought the Civil War to preserve its slave labor. Its founding documents and its leaders were clear. ‘Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition,’ declared Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens in his 1861 ‘Cornerstone speech.’”
Being aware of what certain statues, schools and streets names, flags, and other symbols represent, why should we keep these things intact? Arguing that these statues are history is flawed. We would never erect a statue of Adolf Hitler to teach history because we know that statues are meant to be admired, not to teach us values.
What about the statue of Saddam Hussein? On 9 April 2003, hundreds gathered in Firdaus Square, downtown Bagdhad, attempting to pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Later, U.S. troops with armored vehicles pulled down the statue. Why not keep a statue of a man that violated humans rights by torturing, mass-murdering, raping, ethnic cleansing, etc.? The answer should be simple; we do not want to admire him.
Another example lies in the Berlin Wall. According to ThoughtCo., “For 28 years, the Berlin Wall had been a symbol of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain between Soviet-led Communism and the democracies of the West. When it fell, the event was celebrated around the world.”
The time has come to pull down the Confederacy statues and symbols, to celebrate new symbols that represent equality and admire new people. History should never be forgotten, but we have schools, books and museums to teach us the principles and values we should never reproduce. We can understand our ancestors but do better; We should recognize their errors and empathize with those whose cultural heritage was of subjection and repression. We stand with those that have suffered and still suffer from our ancestors and from those that still believe in belittling others. We trust in our human ability to care for others and realize that the times have changed; let’s create a worldwide culture of acceptance and letting go of the idea of “the other.”