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?
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These monuments support white supremacy and racial terror. They propagate a false version of our nation's history.
Activists calling for the removal of controversial statues have a good reason to do so. These statues depict individuals who openly supported racist ideologies, or fought for racist institutions.
For example, a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia has drawn significant backlash, because he was a commander of the Confederate Army, which fought to preserve slavery.
Another prominent example of this includes Fort Benning, a famous U.S. army post. This post gets its name from Henry Benning, a Confederate general and supporter of slavery.  Although these people supported treasonous, horrific institutions, they still hold a place of honor in public spaces.
Although these are only two examples, they illustrate the basis of criticism toward controversial statues. These people supported racist institutions. They do not deserve places of honor in our public spaces. Furthermore, it is wrong to venerate people who supported the dehumanization of others. For this reason, we should remove their statues.
Statues do not necessarily honor the individuals they depict- they simply portray them. In this way, they serve as impartial, innocuous reminders of our history. For this reason, it is irrational to argue that we honor problematic figures through preserving statues of them.
[P1] Controversial statues depict people who supported racist institutions.
[P2] Statues honor the individuals they depict.
[P3] Thus, these statues venerate people who supported the cruel and horrific treatment of fellow human beings.
[P4] It is wrong to venerate people who supported such morally reprehensible institutions because they don't deserve this honor.
[P5] Therefore, we should remove controversial statues.