Let us join today in celebration for the removal of the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.
As you may recall, the statue of Lee was a flashpoint for the gathering of white supremacists four years ago, who came for a Unite the Right rally; racists who orchestrated a torchlight protest, reminiscent of Hitler youth and other ultranationalist groups. When their march started, the chants began: “Blood and soil!” “You will not replace us!” “Jews will not replace us!”
Counter-protesters were also present in large numbers, and one of the white supremacists plowed a car into a 32-year-old woman, fatally injuring her.
It took four years of legal wrangling to finally bring down these despicable statues, but there has been a sigh of relief that these racists symbols are gone from the city park, no longer to be seen just yards from the courthouse where in the past slaves had been sold.
Lee and Jackson, in my opinion, were traitors to our country, fighting to preserve the immoral institution of slavery. They were not heroes; they were nothing but reprehensible and worthy of no honor. Perhaps the best place for these statues would be next to other Confederate statues in Richmond, Virginia, toppled on the ground next to a wastewater treatment plant. How fitting, racist symbols abutting sewage.
When you look at the history of our country, it is clear that the erection of Confederate statues and the display of the Confederate flag were part and parcel of the attempt by Southern whites to promote the philosophy of what has come to be known as the Lost Cause. By this interpretation, the Civil War was a righteous motivation, fought over states’ rights, having nothing to do with slavery and racism.
It was an effort to educate Southern whites as to the “true” reasons for the war and to support white supremacist Jim Crow laws. The Confederate flag became emblematic of the Lost Cause, with its proponents whitewashing its message, fraudulently claiming that it represented Southern heritage, not hatred.
Here in Allegany County, the Lost Cause persists and Confederate flags are accepted. Witness the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization (CHCO), whose purpose is, per their website, to “promote true U.S. history.” At their headquarters on Allegany Street, the Confederate flag is flown at all times and is brightly lit at night. Their website is replete with pictures honoring this racist flag, and Civil War traitors are deemed heroes. To any objective observer of our nation’s history, it is hard to fathom that this does not represent a tacit approval of racist beliefs.
And yet, CHCO continues to get monetary support from the city government, as well as the endorsement of government officials by virtue of participation in CHCO activities and acknowledgement of their organization on Allegany County websites. On the CHCO website, we can see government officials pictured, standing beneath the Confederate flag.
Allegany County chooses to support the Lost Cause. Have we no shame?