In Saturday’s stream of consciousness, I mentioned my participation in a local Braver Angels zoom debate. Below is my three minute speech opposed to the following debate “resolution”:
“Removing statues and monuments will erase important parts of our nation’s history.”
I was one of three people speaking the “con” side of the statement. We had fewer speaking in favor of the statement. One interesting point made by an African American woman disagreeing with the statement was that relocating statues to museums would likely give more opportunity for learning and discussion by visiting school groups, etc. She also talked about subliminal messages and healing.
Braver Angels seeks to depolarize America with workshops and debates intended to foster respect and understanding. We are encouraged to say what we believe and to speak from our own experience. After each prepared speech, people can ask questions of the speaker and responses can be up to one minute. If there’s time, we have “flash speeches” and share what we learned.
This first debate by our local group went well. There was concern from some that if we start removing statues, that other statues and monuments, like the Lincoln Memorial, could also be removed. My question to this was to ask if the speaker thought some statues could be more harmful than others, and that seemed to be a point of agreement. All statues are not the same.
Now, for my speech. (Respectful responses from your own experience and feelings are welcome. )
Hello, thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening
If we remove a statue or monument, we are not erasing history. We cannot change what has already happened. History will still be available…in books, films, and on the internet. Many statues and monuments can be re-located to museums where a much of history is saved, or to private historical sites, cemeteries, or to the families of the artists who created aolstatues.
When I first read the debate resolution, I thought of the confederate statues I’ve seen in downtown Wilmington.
I’ve lived in Wilmington since 1980. All that time, I’ve felt very uncomfortable with the confederate statues glorifying men who fought for slavery. One of the things that bothers me most is the prominence of the statues. If you live anywhere near downtown, you’ve seen these statues on a regular basis. What kind of message do they send?
One example is the prominent 8-foot-tall statue of George Davis recently removed from Market Street. George Davis was the last attorney general of the confederacy. The pedestal describes George Davis with glowing words like “stainless integrity, virtue, refinement, and the true heart of chivalry in southern manhood. Is this an accurate portrayal of history? It leaves out the fact that George Davis gave a “… public speech1861 in which he argued that North Carolina should secede from the United States …. to protect (in his words) the economic interest in “chattel slavery.” Chattel slavery in which human beings are bought and sold as property.
I am deeply troubled that this man has been celebrated and honored as a hero for so many years.
When I’ve passed by this statue, and the one on third street honoring the soldiers of the confederacy, my feelings of discomfort and embarrassment linger. I want to cringe at what they represent…..
I can only imagine what black and brown citizens think and feel when they’ve passed these statues.
We need to ask ourselves, what people and ideals do we want to honor? Do we want to promote the ideals of the confederacy? Do we want to honor men who fought for slavery and the oppression of a whole race of human beings?
Or do we want to promote values of equality, equity, community, and inclusivity? ……
The statues representing confederate soldiers and statesmen have stood for many years in prominent positions in our city. But times are changing.
Maya Angelou wrote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
It’s time now for our city to move forward, and to honor positive and inclusive ideals.
Thank you for listening.