Is it worth it to try and remove monuments and names honoring white supremacists?

Former South Carolina senator and governor Benjamin Tillmanhas a statue outside the South Carolina state house and buildings named after him at some SC universities. He said this, never repenting (from what I’ve been able to find):

And this:

And he declared he would “willingly lead a mob in lynching a Negro who had committed an assault upon a white woman.”

I know white supremacism was depressingly common in the US before 40 or 50 years ago. But this seems a bit farther than what I was familiar with.

How many public monuments and other honors are there for white supremacists like Tillman? What kind of efforts have there been to remove these honors (and what kind of resistance have they faced)? How difficult is it, and is it worth it?

Well, damn, I came in here to talk about Pitchfork Ben at the State House.

Personally, I think having a statue on the state house grounds implies a certain sanctioning of an individual. I don’t want us to forget about him, but I’d be happy seeing him moved to a museum. (He isn’t the only questionable person there, by the way - there’s a Sims monument and he was a great gynecologist who did some pretty shady experimenting on black women, for example. Not to mention ol’ Strom.)

Do we include some of the larger national monuments? Washington Monument? Jefferson Memorial? Lincoln Memorial?

I’m going to have nightmares tonight involving gynecological experiments done on Strom Thurmond. Thank you so very much.

I think there’s a difference between Washington, Jefferson et al. and Tillman. All of them were “white supremacists”. But white supremacy and the suppression, and sometime murder, of black people was pretty much the basis of Tillman’s political career. That’s not really true of Jefferson and Washington. Washington owned a lot of slaves and gained a lot of wealth from forcing them to work his fields, but the Washington Memorial isn’t there to honor his great feats of slave-ownership.

So yes, I think the statue of Tillman should be removed to a museum and buildings named in his honour renamed. He was first and foremost a white-supremacist in a way that other honoured political leaders, including slave owners and advocates of slavery, were not.

Not sure why that comment is singled out. Isn’t that basically the equivalent of people saying they would want to kill or castrate rapists?

Anyway, Lincoln proposed sending blacks to Liberia. He thought this was best as living together they would be unequal.

Nope. In the USA, lynchings were not about justice or punishing rapists.

The distinction between Washington/Lincoln and Tillman is not that Tillman’s career was based on white supremacy. It’s that he was advocating crimes. Sure, it sucked that Washington and Lincoln owned people, but it was legal.

In light of the preceding quote, it sounds to me like any black man shacking up with a white woman is “assaulting” her:

Yeah, there’s a difference between being an incidental racist or bigot within a racist society and actually going out of one’s way to advocate what even then and there and even by himself was known to be criminal.

Keep the monument, replace he dedication plaque with one at least as big as the statue itself headlined “Colossal A***ole” and that explains why is that so.

I meant to say “that Washington owned people and Lincoln thought negroes were inferior…”

How far do we go with moral universalism? As pointed out, many of our own Founding Fathers and their predecessors engaged in behavior that’s barbaric by today’s standards. Most of the kings and emporers who created the modern world were absolute monsters. Sure, we can say it’s different because their behavior was technically legal, but it was only legal because they made it so. We’d be awfully short on monuments if we tore down every one that memorialized someone reprehensible by today’s standards. So, where do we draw the line? I’d submit that if, on balance and despite his misdeeds, the historical figure’s actions advanced humanity and civilization and if those advancements have stood the test of time, the monument can stay. Applying this to Benjamin Tilman… fuck him. Tear it down.

Noted Civil War general and post-war KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest has dozens of monuments erected in his name and a bunch of schools named after him as well.

I dunno. Leaving them might entice kids to learn about history, and to realize that Earth != Disneyland. It’d be a disservice to officially present everything in a kitschy way. I guess it depends on how these monuments are presented.

And, see, my opinion is that we should be trying to make Earth more like Disneyland, to use your metaphor. I think kids should learn that goodness is celebrated and evil is not. When a figure is primarily of note today because of their bigotted or otherwise immoral actions, a statue of them in a place of prominence in a town is going to come across as celebrating that immorality.

And, let’s not forget, Washington freed his slaves at his death, and Lincoln started a war in order to free those slaves, even though he didn’t think that highly of them as people. If you’re going to pick prominent people we’re going to also have to remove, you’re going to have to do better than that.

Unless you move it to Madame Tussaud’s House of Horrors, a monument is going to be presented as a fuckin’ monument. That what it is. Short of adding a plaque that says, “this guy was a douche”, I don’t see how presentation is going to help.

I sort of like the idea of an anti-monument. People can throw things at it, urinate on it, etc. It can have quotes written on the wall, but instead of inspiring things the person said, it they’d be things people said trashing the memorialized. The statue can be based on the least flattering photograph of the person we can find.

Here’s an idea: Treat it just like they’ve done when the KKK has tried to sponsor the clean-up of highways in their name and the state just changed the name of the highway to honor a civil rights leader. Leave the cretin’s statue up and erect one of Malcolm X right next to it. X can even be giving him the finger.

There are probably a hundred thousand monuments and public buildings in the South dedicated to confederate worthies, and half as many dedicated to segregationists or white supremacists. Kind of expensive to put Malcolm X next to all of them.

It still boggles my mind that the Northern Virginia has major highways and roads named for people like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Not so much for the racism angle, but mainly for the fact that they conducted a war on the United States and yet are still venerated. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that.

This is common throughout the South. It doesn’t bother me as much as tributes to people like Tillman and Forrest, though.