Richard Rose, President of Atlanta’s NAACP, advocates that we sandblast the bas-relief of Confederates Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee from the face of Stone Mountain.
Months before the havoc wreaked on September 11, 2001, many of us cringed as the Taliban government of Afghanistan destroyed multiple Buddhas. How can destroying icons of another group increase respect and appreciation for your own icons?
In March 2001, the government sent envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi to Washington to contextualize the destruction: “The Islamic government made its decision in a rage after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the ancient works while a million Afghans faced starvation.”
Richard Rose contextualizes his initiative: “That carving is a great piece of art, but it was commissioned out of hate and white supremacy… The state should not be supporting or condoning white supremacy with my tax dollars.”
Otto Adolf Eichmann was one of the major organizers of the holocaust. Israel convicted him, and, on June 1, 1962, hanged him. Israel’s government would have been more civilized if instead of killing him, they had let him live in prison for life.
The question is not whether evil occurred. Slavery was horrendously wrong, and we as a nation still have not halted its continuing legacy. Sandblasting Stone Mountain will not right the wrongs symbolized by the Confederates carved there.
Should we sandblast the U.S. Capitol? It was built by slaves and paid for in large measure by wealthy slave-owners through their taxes.
Should we sandblast all the churches in the North and South which profited from slavery? Should we deface seminaries, banks, universities, and other institutions still endowed by profits from slavery?
There are ways to do justice that are more civil than destroying art and property. Tactics used by vandals and vigilantes demean us.
On January 16, 1865, after his march to the sea, U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 to give to each freed slave 40 acres. Many slaves joined the Union army expecting the 40 acres, but President Andrew Johnson, the Southerner who succeeded after Lincoln’s assassination, revoked No. 15 in the fall of the same year.
In January 1989 U.S. Congressman John Conyers (Michigan) proposed a reparations bill, H.R. 40, numbered to keep before us the broken promise of 40 acres. H.R. 40 has failed repeatedly, but support continues to grow for it.
Reparations are not a gift, but a debt — a debt long overdue.
My great-grandfather was a private in the Coosa County (Alabama) regiment of the Confederacy. He spent most of the war in a Northern prison. When he returned to Alabama, he became known for two things, his alcoholism and his mantra, “So long as there is a N- left in the world, I will never put on my own coat again.”
We do not choose our family; but we can choose how to respond to their mistakes and how to use any spoils they bequeathed to us.
I have only $100 of Confederate Money, and I have no interest in the Old South rising again. Instead, I share Dr. King’s dream, “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”
Will sandblasting Stone Mountain let freedom ring?