America is taking steps to erase the glorification of racism and slavery with one Confederate monument removal at a time.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a report Monday showing that about three Confederate monuments are being removed each month. In fact, the study indicates that 110 Confederate statues have been taken out nationwide since the Charleston Church shooting in 2015 sparked the demand for their removal.
In its calculations, the report includes schools and roads that have been renamed in California, a revamped federal Confederate holiday celebrated in Georgia, as well as Confederate flags and monuments removed in southern states, including Alabama and Louisiana.
As Heidi Beirich of the SPLC noted, there wasn’t much talk about removing these racist symbols until white supremacist Dylann Roof took the lives of nine black churchgoers. When photos of Roof posing with the Confederate flag were unearthed, his radicalization called attention to how so-called historic memorials help perpetuate racism and hate by glorifying the figures who endorsed slavery.
"I think it kind of signifies something monumental," said Beirich, director of the organization's Intelligence Project. "I think people are finally willing to confront the history and come to terms with it."
On the other hand, the number of monuments that have been removed thus far makes up only a small portion of the over 1,700 that continue to stand tall. Furthermore, organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans are hindering the process by putting up new statues while others are being taken down.
"They're taking them down, and we're putting them up," said Thomas V. Strain Jr., commander in chief of the group.
While his group isn’t tracking all of the name changes and monument removals taking place throughout the nation, Strain maintained that 110 “seems a little high.”
Additionally, there are plans in the works to open a new headquarters in Columbia, Tennessee, that will include The National Confederate Museum, which will tell the “Southern side” of the Civil War.
"It's not just dedicated to the soldiers, it's dedicated to the wives and children who had to endure that five years of hell also," he said. "We'll have Southern uniforms there, not Union uniforms. We'll have Southern artillery shells, not Northern ones."
The tug of war taking place throughout the country regarding these monuments serves as a real-life depiction of taking one step forward and two steps back.
With groups like Sons of Confederate Veterans fighting to keep America's racist legacy alive, it isn't likely that there will come a day in the immediate future when all of the monuments are down for good. However, the fact that the racist history behind these symbols is now a part of the national discourse signals progress. It may be slow, but it's progress nonetheless.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst