Letters to the Editor: Thoughts on Confederate statue in Daviess County

June 17, 2020 | 12:06 am

Updated June 17, 2020 | 12:12 am

Owensboro Times received a pair of Letters to the Editor regarding the Confederate statue on the Daviess County Courthouse lawn. Both letters are included below.

There is no such thing as a Confederate hero; there never was. The Confederacy was never a struggle for states’ rights, but rather was always the manifestation of the monstrous — the embodiment of human oppression. 

Built into the creation of the Confederacy was a provision protecting slavery no matter any future legislation or movement by abolitionist within Confederate states; thus protecting slavery at what would have been the Confederate national level even from the state legislature within the Confederate states.

The Confederacy was always about human bondage, through lore and lies has the Confederacy found its honor in its death, as it always did in life. How much “strange fruit” has come up from the roots, those lies? How many torches in the night have been sparked? How many bullets, how many beatings, how many more betrayals? 

There can be no justice, no human rights, no moving forward while this thing still haunts our streets. Take it down. 

The time to draw a line in the sand is here. You can be on one side or the other, but you can’t be on both. Everyone’s going to have to choose. There can be no middle ground. 

Any politician who is not willing to remove hate has no place; they are choosing to be instruments of oppression, the active tools of hate. To all the politicians who say “wait, give us time,” you are out of time, one side or the other. And know we will mark you and remember you by the side you take. 

There is no place for this thing in our county, in our country; there never was. Do not let hate stand. Overcome.

I do not call for mob destruction, but for the many hands of democracy. I do not call for lawlessness, but for the loud voice of liberty. I do not call for the unlawful removal of the statue, as that would deny us the pleasure of seeing it lawfully and so lovingly destroyed to make anew.

To those who wish to tear it down unlawfully, remember that it was black Union soldiers who defended Kentucky courthouses during the civil war, and Confederate rebel guerrillas and raiders who burned them down. 

Let us not follow in those monstrous footsteps of those — not only because hope can no longer move as quickly once on crooked ground, but also because the change that will come in the legal destruction of this thing will set the foundation for more change. 

It is time to demand action; it is time to demand this thing down. To those who say that the statue belongs in a museum, I say this: only if there is a sign next to it that says “Once there was a monster, but we slew it.” 

We would not stand for Nazi statues in our museums. I do not believe there is much difference between the destruction of a people and the enslavement of one. As such, I do not believe there is much difference between the Confederacy and the Third Reich. 

I believe we should melt the statue down and from it cast a new one — an African-American Union soldier, with a line at the base saying, “I stood for human dignity, stand with me.”

From Matthew Crispin

It is easy to see recent protests over racism and the treatment of black Americans as being isolated to larger cities, but every community has an obligation to reflect and take action, including Owensboro. As an Owensboro native and graduate of the county public school system, I care deeply about our community, and that is why I am echoing the call to remove the Confederate monument from the grounds of the courthouse and encourage others to do so.

I hear many people defending these monuments as important components of history, and they accuse detractors of trying to rewrite or ignore the past. Unfortunately, that understanding is at odds with the historical record, and it perpetuates a propaganda technique used by former Confederates as they regained power after the Civil War. It is important, I think, to address this understanding head-on because it obscures what these displays represent and how they were intended.

The Owensboro statue, built in 1900, was part of a larger project to erect monuments of white supremacy across the United States following the end of Reconstruction. Like the monument here, the vast majority of these were constructed decades after the end of the Civil War, when white lawmakers were codifying racist ideas into law and romanticizing the efforts of Confederates to commit treason to preserve slavery. The laws would later be known as Jim Crow, and the monuments functioned as a type of public information campaign targeting black citizens and any white supporters.

The intention was never to honor history or reconcile a shattered nation; it was to send a message, and the message was quite clear: the people who betrayed their fellow citizens for the right to own black human beings were back in power, and the community supported them. 

Regrettably, that is not just my opinion but a matter of historical fact, and it is one with which Owensboro needs to reckon, as so many other cities, big and small, are doing during this national moment. I understand that many readers have not looked on the statue with evil in their hearts – some may find the statue nice to look at, some may simply enjoy Civil War history, some may never have paid it much attention in the first place. I do not aim to judge their character, but I urge them to consider what it communicates about our community that we would fail to remove a symbol we know was conceived in hate, not healing, not heritage.

Community leaders are once again discussing taking down the statue, and Owensboro NAACP leader Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph has noted it can easily be relocated to a museum or cemetery as other statues have been. We should seize this moment to take a small but direct step forward by acknowledging the corrosive history of these monuments, the violence and injustice toward black Americans they represent, and the pain they still cause today through removing the Owensboro Confederate monument. 

If you agree that this statue has no place on the courthouse grounds, please contact your county commissioner and Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly voicing your support for removal. I know Owensboro to be a warm and welcoming community – we should reflect that in the ideas we choose to uphold in our public spaces.

From Gray Whitsett

June 17, 2020 | 12:06 am

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