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How do we think about removing controversial statues in the US? Show more Show less

Throughout the U.S., activists are calling for the removal of controversial statues, which most often depict individuals with slavery era ties or who expressed racist opinions. Although the presence of these statues has long been a subject of debate, the American public’s renewed attention to systemic, racially-motivated violence has brought this conversation into the forefront of public discourse. According to those in favor of removal, these monuments glorify individuals who supported racist institutions. They stand as relics to white supremacy and racial terror. Others argue that these statues must remain because they are a part of our history. Although this is a heinous aspect of our past, removing these statues would be an attempt to whitewash America’s history. So, how should we think about this debate?

"We must not remove these statues!" Show more Show less

Although slavery was a horrific institution, it is a part of our history. We must preserve reminders of our past, trusting that "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."
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These people made morally questionable decisions, but they weren't completely bad.

These statues depict people who made grievous mistakes but removing their statues ignores all of the positive aspects of their legacies.
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Context

The Argument

Although these statues depict individuals who supported immoral institutions, we should not view their failures as a reason for the statues' removal. We should not allow their moral oversights to destroy their legacies, because these individuals contributed to the common good in many ways, despite having failed in some areas. The lives of two notable Civil War figures support this argument well. Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general but also served as president of Washington College, which is now known as Washington and Lee University. [1] Nathan Bedford Forrest, who oversaw the horrific Fort Pillow massacre and reportedly became the first grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, later denounced his racist past and promoted racial equality. [2] [3] Unfortunately, activists are now calling for the removal of both men's statues. Although these people obviously made huge mistakes, their monuments should remain in our public spaces. In our day and age, it is obvious that these statues do not celebrate racism, because it is widely understood to be evil. We should preserve their statues as symbols celebrating their acts of good.

Counter arguments

Framing

Premises

[P1] These statues depict people who held morally wrong opinions and supported immoral institutions. [P2] However, these people were not completely evil- they contributed to the common good in other ways. [P3] We should not take down these statues, because these people deserve to be honored for the good they did.

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/robert-e-lee
  2. http://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/6866
  3. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/nathan-bedford-forrest

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 1 Jul 2020 at 18:36 UTC