Politics Rep. Clyburn on Confederate statues: Mob action is no answer
House Democrats seek to use spending bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol
A new spending bill for legislative branch operations unveiled by House Democrats on Monday would order the removal of statues that depict people who served in the Confederacy or otherwise worked to uphold slavery from the Capitol.The legislation marks the latest effort by House Democrats to remove the statues that have drawn renewed scrutiny since George Floyd's death in police custody sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice.The House Appropriations Committee is expected to advance the bill Tuesday for a floor vote later this month.
In an atrocious act of cultural terrorism, Afghanistan's "" were obliterated in 2001 under orders of then-Taliban leader Mullah Omar. But in other instances throughout history and across the globe, statue removal - for the righteous or for those who are misguided - is a sign of power and ascension.
After the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated, thousands ofwere torn down by long-frustrated victims of Soviet totalitarianism. It would not be wrong to think that most citizens in China and both Koreas would love to burn down (if they could) Japan's , which memorializes the souls of many of Japan's military dead, including convicted Class A war criminals. But Japan is a powerful sovereign country that still tolerates this memorial that whitewashes its crimes against millions in Asia during World War II.
Man wears Confederate Flag in public: "What Would You Do?"
Tune in to the new season of “What Would You Do” premiering Tuesday, July 7th at 10/9c on ABC. But how have individuals responded to the symbols still on display in places like a restaurant or a grocery store? "What Would You Do?" shot this scenario more than a year ago -- before the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests against racial injustice -- in two different locations: Brooklyn, New York, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In the scenario, patrons react as a Black actor asks a white actor why he is wearing the Confederate Flag in public.
The ongoing negotiation of the historical record is nothing new and, as power relationships of victor and vanquished shift, so too do the symbols of cultural and political history. Sometimes moral purpose enlightens which monuments go and which stay - but not always.
Today America is struggling with the renegotiation of its own historic symbols. Every statue along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. - except those of Gen. Robert E. Lee and of Black tennis star Arthur Ashe -, ostensibly by or following the demands of protesters angry at the glorification of Confederate generals and politicians who protected the institution of American slavery and were traitors who waged war on the United States. Lee's statue is scheduled to be removed in the near future, pending a court's ruling, while Arthur Ashe's statue has been , reportedly by a "white lives matter" protester.
United or Divided States of America? 6 ways to think about removing Confederate statues
The more difficult work will be to dismantle the byproducts of slavery, such as mass incarceration and educational inequalities for children of color. © Eze Amos/Getty Images In Richmond, Virginia, on July 8, 2020. Which statues to remove, and how?Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. Moving forward, here are six things to consider: ►All statues are not on equal footing. In general, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers, notwithstanding their flaws, united the nation whereas the Confederates divided the nation.
Confederate statues have come down all over the nation. But so too, in Madison, Wis., has a statue commemorating aand suffragette, torn down by those frustrated with racial injustice in America. And so was memorializing Union general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, because protesters there believed he was a slave owner.
Former Congressional Black Caucus chairman and now House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's take on reexamining and correcting America's systemic racism, on rearranging the statues in our pantheons, is to sensibly deliberate these things through discussion and debate, not to engage in blind mob action. In an interview with The Hill, Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he was appalled by the attack on the statue of Grant. He said:
"Ignorance is bliss. And that is to say I'm a big advocate of people sitting down around the table and having sensible discussions, and if they were to have sensible discussions about these things, people would be more careful about anything that resembles mob action. And that is what has happened to Ulysses Grant. I know enough about history to know that Ulysses Grant was the best friend that former slaves had coming out of the Civil War. I know that what caused him great pause when he was about to get married - the young lady he wanted to marry, he had real problems that her family owned slaves. I know that he was made the gift of a slave that he set free, and I think that if people knew Ulysses Grant's history, they would not tear down his statue.
Clyburn defends Grant but says Calhoun statue must come down
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday said protesters should be more diligent when choosing which historical monuments to challenge and defended the records of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, whose monuments have been targeted by racial justice protests. © Bonnie Cash Clyburn defends Grant but says Calhoun statue must come down But Clyburn also railed against other figures such as John C.
"That's why we have to be careful. You go through this, all the people who lived though this period of time did not advocate slavery. He never did. He was just the opposite. So it is a big mistake on the part of anybody to tear down his statue. And that applies to a lot of others."
On the other side of this equation, Clyburn expressed his support for ridding positions of honor for those who fought for and built their careers on the subjugation of Black slaves. He continued: "Look ... here in South Carolina - we have two statues, one of John C. Calhoun, one of the biggest proponents of slavery, and I'm glad to see that Charleston, S.C., took his statue down and Clemson took his name off its honors college. I think we ought to go through all of these things. I think Wade Hampton has no business representing South Carolina up there in Statuary Hall in the (U.S.) Capitol."
Clyburn - along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and G.K. Butterfield Jr. (D-N.C.) - have deliberated and heard different views on how history's major leaders should and should not be represented in the U.S. Capitol. They have introduced, a bill that would, among other things, replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who delivered the majority opinion in the . Taney ruled that African Americans could not be considered citizens of the U.S. and that slavery could not be abolished. Clyburn and his allies want to replace Taney's bust with that of Black civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the old Supreme Court Chamber.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper bans Confederate flags from military bases, rejects 'divisive symbols'
Esper listed appropriate flags including state flags, the POW/MIA flag, and military service flags. The Confederate flag was absent from the list. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. The guidance applies to all public displays of flags in "Department of Defense work places, common access areas, and public areas," Esper wrote. Today I issued a memorandum to the force on the display of flags at @DeptofDefense facilities. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation. pic.twitter.
Clyburn emphasized that they are not seeking to destroy Taney's bust or any other statues but simply to remove them. Their bill requires that statues celebrating those who protected the institutions of slavery or segregation must be reclaimed by their states or be taken in by the Smithsonian Institution and managed with appropriate historical context. The bill also would require removal of any statues into those who volunteered for the armed forces of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Ibram X. Kendi, in his acclaimed book, "," challenges everyone, including himself, with the responsibility of introspection and proactive steps to undo racist bias and the legacy of damage done over centuries in America. Statue removal is one part of this. But if we do so without deliberation, without context, without keeping these symbols of America's sins against Black people who didn't come to America because they wanted to but because they were forced to - as Rep. Clyburn expressed in his interview - somewhere in our "national cupboard" in order to remind people of those historic crimes, then progress isn't achieved.
What is clear is that this feels like a truly historic inflection point on racism in America because, when statues are toppled and removed, it's a sign that power has shifted - in this case for the better - in our society.
Steve Clemons is editor at large of The Hill and is part of The Hill's series, "Reflections," focusing on the legacy of systemic racism in America. Follow him on Twitter.
House Votes to Remove Confederate Statues From Capitol Grounds .
The U.S. House voted Wednesday to remove statues of Confederate figures and other memorials celebrating proponents of slavery and segregation from the Capitol grounds. © Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Statues of Jefferson Finis Davis (2nd L), president of the Confederate States from 1861-1865, and Uriah M. Rose (L), an Arkansas county judge and supporter of the Confederacy, are on display in Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.