Recently, there has been much debate over whether to
erase Confederate symbols of white supremacy and slavery, or keep these
powerful, iconic figures where they stand. No matter how anyone looks at it, the
right to move or keep the statues where they are lays with the people. It is
their freedom of expression to support these figures of history, and taking
them off their pedestals without majority approval is depriving these Americans
of that right so adamantly defended by the United States Constitution.
The First Amendment of the Constitution states that “Congress
shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” (cornell.edu).
1 These two freedoms,
together, create freedom of expression. Without this protection, the United
States would not be the nation of “free thought” that it is today (Nelson).
Supporters of the statues have also declared that removing them “effectively
erases history,” but fail to recognize what allowed the statue to be there in
the first place (Al Jazeera News). The First Amendment allowed white
supremacists after the Civil War to create statues of men like Robert E. Lee to
support the South’s beliefs. In government, what matters is what is in law, so
there will be no hesitation to tear down monuments if the only thing standing
in its way is erasing history. There have already been laws laid down by the
state that “prevents cities and counties from relocating, removing, or renaming
war memorials” like the one in Tennessee that stopped the removal of a statue
in Memphis (Davidson). These decisions should be made through the local
community. A majority of a town’s citizens should decide whether to keep or
remove a statue. Unfortunately, the presence of “demagoguery… undermines the
ability of a community” to arrive at reasonable solutions (Roberts-Miller).
The opposition on this issue have taken stances stating
that the statues represent white supremacy, that the idea of them erasing
history is idiotic, and that they should be moved away from the public eye.
While it is true that these Confederate statues are “visible inscriptions of
white supremacy,” that does not change the fact that the creators of these
statues were protected by the First Amendment (Appelbaum). They exercised their
freedom of expression, and the United States government could not take away
this right because of the First Amendment. This still pertains to supporters of
the statues today. Now, they exercise their beliefs by supporting these
artistic expressions made decades ago. Others believe the idea that removing
the statues means that one is erasing history is irrational because they do not
wish to erase history. They say that they want these figures to “be remembered
and understood, for exactly who they were, what they believed and what they
fought for” (Waldman). They actually want the statues to be remembered in the
way they want them to. There are so many different interpretations that one can
get from iconic figures, and the white nationalist viewpoint is just one of
many. It is their freedom of expression- guaranteed in the First Amendment-
that allows white supremacist to support this idea of history that they hold.
Taking down the statues would just be unfairly erasing one point of view.
Lastly, another group of people ready to get rid of the statues believe that
they should be removed from daily public life and placed in locations such as
museums that allow the statues to be “presented as the propaganda they are”
(Cotter). Moving these Confederate statues will effectively erase these figures
and their contributions from the “collective recollection of the people
(Murdock). This will, once again, erase an interpretation of history that is
supposed to be protected by the First Amendment because it can be considered
freedom of expression.
These Confederate statues must be allowed to stand until
a majority decides to remove it. The First Amendment of the Constitution
guarantees citizens the right to freedom of expression, and taking this right
away would be going against the wishes that the earliest Americans had for the
United States. Allow the people to make this decision.
1 LII Staff, First Amendment, https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment,
(accessed December 10, 2017).