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Debate in NC over Confederate monuments, not flag

Posted July 6, 2015

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— As South Carolina debates the future of the Confederate battle flag that flies outside the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., some in North Carolina are questioning Confederate monuments on public property.

A state database of Civil War monuments shows more than 70 of North Carolina's 100 counties have at least one memorial to the Confederacy, including 17 counties that have multiple monuments. The list doesn't even include federal and state highway markers, historic trails and private monuments linked to the Confederacy.

Most of these memorials were built to honor Confederate soldiers who served or lost their lives in the war. To many, they represent heritage and history, but to a growing number, they reflect oppression and racism.

Last week, vandals spray-painted a marker in a Durham-owned cemetery, and similar vandalism occurred over the weekend at the "Silent Sam" statue on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

"I think that you have to separate the monuments that commemorate soldiers that have fallen versus a symbol that has been adopted by groups that, I think, promote hate," said Thomas Barbour of Raleigh, referring to the battle flag.

"If your displaying it in public on public grounds, I think it's one and the same," Matt Varghese of Raleigh said. "The South wanted to keep slavery, and that's really what they were fighting for. So, why honor it?"

Mecklenburg County leaders plan to discuss Tuesday whether to remove a Confederate monument in Charlotte that depicts the battle flag.

Keith Hardison, director of state historic sites and properties for the Department of Cultural Resources, argues that more monuments, not fewer, is the answer to the debate.

"Southerners were determined that they were going to leave their history – their version of their history, if you will – in bronze and stone and granite. But where are the other monuments?" Hardison said.

Rather than stifling debate by removing painful reminders of the past, he said, why not provoke dialogue by adding memorials to Native Americans, civil rights leaders and others to complement those honoring the Confederacy?

"If we're going to spend energy on monuments, that's what we ought to be spending energy on – more, not fewer," he said.

Helena Bates of Raleigh added that removing monuments creates more problems.

"In a perfect society, they should come down, but then where do you draw the distinction? What do you pick next?" Bates said.

23 Comments

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  • Marc Trellis Jul 7, 2015
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    Except for that weird grey area where the Nazis murdered millions of people, many in the name of 'experimentation,' and made a pretty strong bid to take over the world, whereas the Confederacy fought against the invasion of their own land and livelihood. But hey, semantics, right?

    As a direct descendant of Gen. Robert E. Lee, it disgusts me to see how unabashedly and sanctimoniously wrong the vast majority of people are about the Civil War and its precipitating causes. Pretty much everyone these days walks around with a device in their pocket containing the collective knowledge of the civilized world, but instead of educating themselves they use their cellphones to perpetuate ignorance that could be remedied with the tap of a finger. Know your facts before you make yourself look like an imbecile. As for the Confederate memorials here in Raleigh, they will come down over my dead body. Count on it.

  • Mike C Jul 7, 2015
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    Next thing you know, aspirin and Tylenol will no longer be sold in bottles because someone will say that is indicative of racism and slavery having to pick the cotton out of the bottle.

  • Mike C Jul 7, 2015
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    Those who refuse to learn from the past, are doomed to repeat the past.

  • Gen Lee Jul 7, 2015
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    they don't see it like that. It is the past that is racist not now. We have to change the past because we don't like it. Just promotes more hate like you said

  • Nikki Littmath Jul 7, 2015
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    They say history repeats itself... Look at us! All we hear about anymore is racism this and racism that. The monuments, flags, etc. are a reminder of where we've been, not where we are headed. These memorials do not promote hate. WE promote it. The media promotes it. We are causing our own civil war.

  • Gen Lee Jul 7, 2015
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    This won't change anything. Get that dream out of your head.

  • William James Jul 7, 2015
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    White Southerners, Flying the Confederate flag and having monuments to honor the dead implies we condone their ideals and values of the time. You don't see Germany flying Nazi flags and building monuments under the false justification its to honor the soldiers who died fighting for Germany because they understand that ideology was about racism and oppression just like the Confederacy who openly treated all other races as inferior. We can feed the lie that Confederate imagery is about our states heritage or we can admit that its always been racist! Just like the Washington Redskins allowing fans to paint themselves in red face, with chicken feather headdresses and waving tomahawks is racist. The Confederate Flag represents the south, pretend or give the illusion of Equal treatment while keeping or hindering minorities at every corner! Why else do Historically black and Indian college grads earn 1/3 less?

  • Mark Neill Jul 7, 2015
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    No. A war was fought by the United States, and a number of other separate entities that declared themselves, in writing, no longer part of the United States, and formed a loose Confederacy to reinforce each other.

    The various Articles of Secession are very clear that the states that were seceding were no longer part of the United States, and that they chose to become so over their right to own and keep slaves.

  • John Banks Jul 7, 2015
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    Take down all the Confederate monuments. Take down all the black monuments. Change ALL road names that have MLK references. Do away with the BET network. Do away with the Telemundo network. Do away with the Ms. Black America. Make it illegal to be a part of the KKK, the Black Panthers and the NAACP. Maybe THESE changes will end the racial divide in this country. RIGHT???? Get real people. Don't throw stones at glass houses until you look inside your OWN home first.

  • Mark Neill Jul 7, 2015
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    No, they aren't. Soldiers fighting for the south were fighting from states that seceded from the Union. The articles of confederacy that most of the states wrote plainly state that they were withdrawing from the United States. From SC's articles of secession:

    "...Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

    And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act..".

    They weren't "defending" their state. They were waging war against the federal government over slavery.

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