It’s a matter of “history.”
In light of recent instances of blatant racism and profiling reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era in America, many have been calling for the removal of Confederate flags, the dismantling of statues of Confederate heroes, and the renaming of many city streets and buildings. As a reminder of a society and time period that inflicted pain and death, both mentally and physically, on a people in one of the largest genocides in history, it is a wonder that the flag was not banned after the Confederate loss in the Civil War, as was the swastika in post-WWII Europe (see Strafgesetzbuch section 86a). Although Strafgesetzbuch section 86a was issued quite some time after the war was over, it is admirable that German lawmakers would honor the people they once discriminated against by removing a symbol that once caused so much pain in their culture.
Ever the anomaly, the United States has just begun to remove every semblance of a racist, violent, prejudice society, and even worse, government. Proponents of keeping those reminders in place will be quick to say that they’re symbols of a rich culture that just so happened to build itself on the backs of slaves and continue that mindset of superiority throughout the late 1960s. The problem lies in the definition of “history.”
“History” is defined as both “the study of past events, particularly in human affairs,” and also “the whole series of past events connected with someone or something.” Well, according to recent events, the mindset that accompanies Confederate memorabilia is anything but a “past” issue. In this very present day, black people are being profiled. In this very present day, black people are being killed for their mere skin color. In this very present day, black people are having to explain to their white counterparts why it is not only NOT OK to use the “n word,” but also if they really espoused the ideals they claim to, they shouldn’t WANT to use that word. In this very present day, black people are having to explain to their children that life will most likely be much different, if not just plain harder, for them than some of their friends.
So by all means, leave the memorabilia up. Keep everything named the same thing it’s already named. Black people, in large part, are not offended by having to attend Robert E. Lee High School, or drive down Dowling Street. Being followed around a store because you look “suspicious,” or explaining why you’re hanging out in a nice neighborhood is much more offensive.
It is silly to try and rename the past to make up for present actions. In fact, it’s a little cowardly to just pretend it didn’t happen. Face it, own up to it, and change it. Perhaps 50 years after slavery was abolished, it would have been more effective to outlaw Confederate symbols. As for now, it’s too little, too late.
Once “history” becomes history, maybe these symbols won’t hold such weight.