In defense of his removal of confederate statues, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, on at least a couple of occasions, posed the hypothetical question about how the parent of a black child would answer when asked what a statue represents.
We hope that any parent of any race would have the wisdom to answer that while all people are undeniably created equal that many times people, even those who wear similar uniforms, are different in intent, attitude and performance later in life. In a fair world they all should be judged as individuals. To do otherwise is to stereotype, and that itself is bigotry.
Among the statues that were removed, the biggest mistake was that of General P.G.T. Beauregard. He among all the others was a native of New Orleans. Beauregard is best known for the war’s first moment, the opening shots at Ft. Sumter. But he can be appreciated for the life he lived after the war when he led a movement of reconciliation and advocated racially mixed schools, transportation and voting rights. “I am persuaded that the natural relation between the white and colored people is that of friendship,” Beauregard once wrote.
Beauregard fought for the Confederacy not because of slavery, but because, at that time, loyalty was given to states rather than the nation. For the same reason Robert E. Lee, who had he decided differently might have been President of the United States one day, fought for the South because he was from Virginia.
Proponents of the statue removal make much of the phrase “cult of the lost cause” a sinister sounding phrase that implies that statues of Southern generals were erected after the war to make it seem like they never lost. Those who argue that miss the point. The American Civil War was never like other wars where in the end the winner punished the loser. Abraham Lincoln understood that this was a war of brothers against brothers, and that for the nation to prosper, reconciliation was the answer not punishment. Robert E. Lee agreed and spent his postwar years getting soldiers to lay down their arms to rebuild the nation. Beauregard did much of the same. Statues depicting the southern effort were allowed because they represented a common experience. In some respect the strategy worked. Although confederate flags still flew in the South, the American flag flew higher. The region was considered the most patriotic part of America.
We would hope that the parent would emphasize to the child that there will be future statues of other people of other races each representing an episode of the American story: a story that should never be hidden away in a crate.