November 15, 2017

Why I Changed My Mind on Athens' Confederate Monument

Regarding recent pieces on the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and backlash concerning the movement of Athens' Confederate monument:

I'm an Athens local and a graduate student with UGA's School of Social Work. With the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, I spoke in favor of moving Broad Street's Confederate monument before the Mayor and Commission.  

Like many from Athens, my family values heritage and honoring those who protect our way of life. Before joining the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, I sided with those in favor of keeping monuments in place and honoring their historical value. After learning the historical significance and true meaning of the Confederate monument on Broad, however, I no longer support its position at the center of our great city.  

I refuse to ignore the statue's origin, specifically its ties to the Ku Klux Klan. The statue, in part funded by Klan members, symbolized the rebirth of the Klan here in Athens. The monument references the Klan with the inscription "Bright angels come and guard our sleeping heroes." The Klan burned crosses and held marches in front of it. The monument served as a symbol of oppression, intended to strike fear into the hearts of anyone challenging white supremacy, and continues said purpose for many today.  

While readers, like I did, may feel the urge to protect this statue, I urge all to consider what this monument means to those feeling the sting of institutional racism and segregation. Consider the experiences of others, and allow this monument to be relocated, as it already has been—twice.