Why You Should Remove My Ancestor's Statue… And All the Other Confederate Monuments
These statues have become synonymous with racism, hatred, and people who genuinely hated their own country enough to start a civil war.
My ancestor was Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, the Pathfinder of the Seas. You may have never heard of him, but he is buried between presidents James Monroe and John Tyler at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA.
Commander Maury was a big deal in his time. He has a statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA. There's a high school, elementary school, lake and river dedicated to him. There is even a crater on the moon in his honor.
I know what you're thinking, he must have accomplished a lot of noble things in his life to receive such prestige… and he did. You can read about them here. But he also did something that history and I find unconscionable: he fought for the Confederacy.
Today, many people are beginning to tear down statues of people like my ancestor —and others are fighting to keep them erect and identify with what they stand for. I do not agree with the "history" and "national identity" argument; in fact, they are toxic.
As someone who has a family link to this part of history, I want you to know that we need to remove my ancestor's statue, and must strongly consider all other Confederate monuments in the country.
Removing Confederate monuments is not whitewashing history.
I’m not saying we should erase the Confederacy from the record. Far from it; we need to remember the past as vividly as possible. As George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We need to be reminded of the Confederacy so that we don’t repeat it.
However, these statues aren't "reminders." Rather, they are glorifying people who betrayed the nation. They have also become synonymous with racism, hatred, and people who genuinely hated their own country enough to start a civil war.
The people who fought for the Confederacy are on the wrong side of history, and we need to remember that. Statues aren't erected to remind us of the people who committed atrocities, though. They are erected to commemorate heroes.
The people who are glorifying these statues and what they stand for don't want to keep their memory alive as a warning of what could happen. They want to keep them there as a way to say that intolerance and traitor-ism is okay. You wouldn't find a statue of Heinrich Himmler at the Holocaust Museum.
More ironically, many of the people who are using this platform are using the memories of my ancestor and others like him to their advantage — despite not having any Confederate heritage of their own. Domestic terrorist James Alex Fields Jr. is from Ohio.
I, along with many others in my position, do not want to see these statues up anymore. We are not happy with the way our relatives are being used as pawns for a white supremacist movement. The fact that these people are doing so out of "patriotism" is not only disrespectful but incredibly hypocritical.
Take a page out of Germany’s book.
We are not the only country that has a past tainted by racism. Germany is one such country, and they have been working to make things better ever since. The entire country has made a united effort to preserve history, remind people of the consequences of hate, and also tear down memorials that glorify those who caused innocent lives to end.
Since 1945, Germany has been removing Nazi-era memorials and architecture. They painted over Swastikas, demolished buildings and buried Nazi soldiers in unmarked graves. They even pulverized the bricks and spread the remains into the North Sea.
The German’s knew the only way to eliminate the Nazi ideology and hate was to eliminate its symbolism. And they’ve done a damn good job removing Nazi ideology, at least in Germany.
But here in America, we’ve managed to do the opposite by praising these hate-filled ideologies with 15-foot monuments. Unlike Germany, it seems like we do not learn lessons from our past.
And we keep building statues to revere the very people who split our country in two. Since 2000, nearly 35 Confederate monuments have been erected in North Carolina alone. That’s 35 too many, and the fact that we have to even say this speaks volumes about where our country's mindset really is.
Confederate statues do the families of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War an injustice.
If I were in my ancestor's position, I never would have wanted my memory to be used as a platform of hatred. If I was him, I never would have wanted to have my family's lineage hijacked by strangers for a political gain.
Moreover, I know that any soldier who has ever experienced war would never want their children to repeat the same hellish history that they lived through. War is hell, and anyone who says otherwise has never been to war.
I'm not asking for the US to whitewash history, but I am asking everyone to admit the true reason people want to "preserve these statues" throughout the South. The reason why they want to preserve these statues has nothing to do with heritage, and we all know that.
The real reasons have everything to do with hate — the same kind of rancor that split our country into two before.
So, as a descendant of a Confederate Commander that is surrounded by friends and family of all colors and faiths, I request that the statues be removed. Let's all remember what happens when we stop being united, and what happens when hate wins. Let's remember the injustices, the bloodbaths, and the mothers who had to bury their children because hate won.
And finally, let's work together as a nation to maintain an America that learned the lessons that so many soldiers in both the Civil War and World War II died to teach us.