Arkansas Democratic Party calls for removal of Confederate monuments from public grounds | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arkansas Democratic Party calls for removal of Confederate monuments from public grounds

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 4:25 PM

click to enlarge FOR THE WOMEN: This Capitol monument honors the women of the Confederacy. - KUAR
  • KUAR
  • FOR THE WOMEN: This Capitol monument honors the women of the Confederacy.
The Arkansas Democratic Party has waded hip-deep (maybe over its head) into the suddenly hot issue of Confederate statuary. It has called for removal of such monuments to museums or private places.

On Thursday, the Democratic Party of Arkansas denounced the continued display of Confederate monuments on public grounds.

From the Democratic Party of Arkansas:

“The time has come for these symbols of our past to be placed in museums and privately owned spaces rather than to continue to occupy public lands.

Monuments are symbols and symbols can sometimes have meanings that are not unilaterally shared across communities. Objects that romanticize the darkest days of our history do not belong on taxpayer funded public grounds.

Our nation was built on values of inclusion and free speech and it is incumbent upon us to always strive for a more perfect union. We can do this by filling our public spaces with new symbols of everything we hope to be rather than what we once were.”
Donald Trump accelerated this fight this morning, as I noted earlier. Such monuments and historical markers in Arkansas are so numerous as to be hard to reliably count.

We've been undertaking a survey of Arkansas politicians about Charlottesville, Trump's remarks and monuments. While many are ready to condemn racism, most are inclined to view statues as historic artifacts that should be preserved. That they don't often reflect their own history — erected as symbols of Southern resistance to equal rights for blacks, as evidenced by Jim Crow laws and tributes to traitors to the union — is not a persuasive argument in most cases.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said:

When it comes to the debate about our historical monuments, we cannot change history but we must learn from it. We should not start taking down monuments just because they remind us of an unpleasant past. Refusing to face our history by dismantling it is a mistake. We should use our historical markers as teaching opportunities to provide greater leadership for the future. Part of the legislation I signed to separate the holidays of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee was to use the history of the Civil War as a teaching opportunity for our students.
As a legislative matter, the Democratic Party's idea is almost a certain loser at the state level.

More interesting might be thinking in individual localities. Surging Bentonville in Benton County, Union territory in the Civil War, nonetheless has a Confederate monument on the square that has been so revived by Walmart money. It's target of a removal petition and fierce opposition is already evident. Little Rock has a Civil War monument in the city's MacArthur Park, something that even Mayor Mark Stodola didn't recall when interviewed by KATV about the monument debate.

There are two large Civil War monuments on the grounds of the state Capitol and, as many have noted, the imagery on the Arkansas flag includes a star representative of the state's time in the Confederacy, which it joined to defend slavery. The star was added almost 60 years after the war ended. The meaning of the star was affirmed in 1987 legislation about all the elements of the flag.

I recounted some of the history in praising New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's speech explaining the removal of such statues in his city. The monument to soldiers at the Arkansas Capitol, for example, was put up 40 years after the war was over.  A band played "Dixie" and remarks were made.

The legislator who sponsored the funding proclaimed the state had "no excuses to make, no apologies to offer." He said the statue was a testimonial of "our unconditional and unqualified endorsement" of the Confederacy. Gov. Jeff Davis called the statue an altar "to the cause we each know was right, the cause of the Confederacy." Featured orator Col. A.S. Morgan said the Confederate cause "is neither a lost cause, nor will the Confederate soldier be forgotten."
The descendants of slaves perhaps don't feel the nobility when they walk by.

FOR THE SOLIDERS: Another monument at Capitol.
  • FOR THE SOLIDERS: Another monument at Capitol.

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