I grew up in Corpus Christi and am a product of the independent school district in that city. My American history teachers taught us that there were several reasons that led the southern states to rebel and withdraw from the United States and form the Confederate States. Of those many reasons, I recall that there was only one issue that had been used in the decision of the U.S. Congress to admit new states into the union and that issue was slavery.
The U.S. Congress seemed to desire keeping the number of slave states about equal to the number of Free states. To argue that slavery wasn’t a major factor in the Civil War runs contrary to what I remember being taught in school.
Following the war and the resulting Reconstruction, the Southern States established laws that segregated people on the basis of skin color and restricted the voting rights of black people. These laws were carried out to reestablish white supremacy in these areas. As a child I remember the separate “Colored” restroom and drinking fountains in public areas. I recall that Blacks were not allowed in many hotels, restaurants, universities, and public schools. I grew up in this culture and it was in this culture that most statues to Confederate individuals were cast and Confederate monuments erected. They were not too subtle reminders that black individuals did not have the same status as whites.
Regardless of what many people think or believe, others see these statues and monuments as reminders that some people may not be as equal as others. Being a white male born and raised in Texas I cannot comprehend what a statue of Robert E. Lee might represent to a person of color. Having lived through the era of desegregation, integration, and the voting rights act, I always believed that our society had moved or was moving toward an idea of equality. The current debate about these statues and monuments has proven me incorrect in my assumptions.
One side makes the argument that removing these monuments erases history and that may be the case. But these monuments also represent a period of history that may need to be erased. In Germany you will not find statues and monuments dedicated to members of the Nazi party and to the generals that fought under the Nazi banner. The Nazi era was a dark blemish in the history of Germany and the German people and they have chosen to not celebrate that part of their past.
So maybe it is time in our history to remove these reminders of our dark past. Remove them from public areas like public parks, governmental buildings, public universities, etc. If necessary, let the citizens affected make the decision as to what to do. This column is in part a response to a Facebook post by a respected member of the county regarding the Confederate monument located on the grounds of the Erath County courthouse. If it were up to me, and it isn’t, I would relocate the monument to either the city historical area or to one of the city cemeteries containing the remains of civil war era individuals. If it is a major problem, it should be put to a vote by the residents of the county and let that settle the issue.
Bob Newby is an educator and Erath County resident. He is a member of the E-T's community columnists and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.