Recently, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey flip-flopped when it came to a proposed monument at a city park honoring the signers of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. After originally thinking it was a good idea to let the Sons of Confederate Veterans place a secession monument at Riverfront Park — a monument which Patriots Point had previously turned down — Summey changed his mind.
In explaining why he decided against the monument, Mayor Summey told The Post and Courier, "Some who stand on both sides of this issue have attempted to divide our council and our city along racial lines."
That's weak, Summey. Were you really surprised that racial issues arose over a proposed monument to secession?
Let's be clear. There is nothing wrong with honoring Confederate soldiers. I was born in Greenville and am proud to be from the South. There is something wrong, however, with selective amnesia when it comes to history.
Honoring South Carolina's secession requires a memory with more holes in it than a colander. The argument for a monument holds about as much water as one, too.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans say the monument commemorates the signing of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. That's true. But this ordinance, along with the ones signed by others, is what led to the Civil War.
Now some will argue that the Civil War or the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression or whatever else you want to call it wasn't about slavery at all. It was about states' rights. Of course, the right in question was the right to buy and sell people like cattle. South Carolina's secession cannot be separated from the hate and racism which led to the debate. Therefore, a monument to the Ordinance of Secession is also a monument to slavery and the idea that a person's skin color is reason enough to think you can own them.
It is important in this argument about heritage and monuments to recognize the necessary separation between this disgusting philosophy and the bravery displayed by Confederate soldiers as well as their Union counterparts. Slavery and racism should not discourage the recognition that these Southern men deserve, especially when you consider that they gave their lives in the face of what can be considered insurmountable odds.
However, this monument is not a tribute to them. No. This is a self-proclaimed monument to secession, which was the direct result of a philosophy based on racism and hate.
Setting this monument to secession in any public space requires a purposeful ignorance of history. The Sons of Confederate Veterans expects those who might have had a problem with slavery and racism to forget about that aspect of South Carolina heritage for the sake of their monument. I say, "No."
Why should we have to forget history in an effort to "honor" it? I suppose when history classes are taught in South Carolina, we should probably not mention that whole slavery thing, eh? Perhaps nobody will notice if that little part is forgotten?
If you're going to memorialize South Carolina's secession from the Union, memorialize all of it. The good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. Put the names of all the slaves who were beaten and brutalized and killed on it as well.
Better yet, if it's truly about heritage and not hate, let's see if the Sons of Confederate Veterans would be willing to include the following John Adams quote on this monument: "Consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God as it is derogatory from our own honor or interest of happiness."
Hey, at least John Adams was white.