As another incipient public speaker tries to denounce a problem of White culture’s own making, i.e. decertifying critical race theory in American education, I think of the thousands of Confederate war statues and monuments still standing in the U.S. Yes, of course some of them have come down recently, either at the hands of protesters or removed from public view by local governments. The most recent estimate was about 168 statues and monuments to the Confederacy were taken or torn down in the wake of the George Floyd murder and public protests in 2020.
But for each one removed—including the recent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia—there are more than 10 times as many left.
According to a 2019 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), approximately 1,712 statues, plaques, schools, roads, military bases, bridges, buildings, parks, and other public monuments honoring former Confederate soldiers remain standing, including several in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. ( There are eleven such statues, all donated by the states. These include Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, the president and vice-president of the confederacy, and General Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s primary military leader. Their place in the U.S. Capitol is indeed very odd).
Nancy Pelosi and other congresspeople have been trying to have the whole lot of them removed, especially after January 6th, but there is significant opposition from the Republicans. As soon as there is breathing room, however, the Speaker of the House says she will immediately introduce the appropriate legislation to accomplish that deed, without hesitation.
Interestingly, these memorial monoliths were mainly erected not immediately after the Civil War, but during the early 1900s and the 1950s and 1960s. They were also not principally meant to lionize Confederate heroes either. They were meant, according to a spokesman for the “Lost Cause” and former vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, along with several recent historians, “to rest upon the cornerstone of the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the White man. The slave’s subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition, and he needs to be continually reminded of that.” For those more current voices who accept Stephens’ view, “We must build Confederate statues and memorabilia, in public spaces, near government buildings, and especially in front of courthouses, as a “power play” to intimidate those looking to come to the “seat of justice or the seat of the law.”
And the law is the heart of critical race theory. The major point explained by the critical race conception is that U.S. law, based as it is on the U.S. Constitution, remains both a help and a hindrance to the achievement of equal rights in the U.S. Although we are supposed to be a country of laws, not of men, it has been mostly men, steeped in White supremacy training, who make and execute these laws. Thus, we have both the quandary, and the path forward. Understanding either and both will require real work, not just profiling.
Ridding the country of scores of stone statues and monuments which deify deceased supporters of White supremacy would be a significant step in the right direction. Pull them all down.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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