In front of the Iredell County Government Center in Statesville, a statue stands of a man holding a rifle in period clothing. It is a monument to Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
For some, the monument is a painful reminder of ancestors’ enslavement and systematic racism. For others, it is a memorial for ancestors who died in the war.
What should Iredell County do with the Confederate monument downtown?
As the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers continues to unfold across the country, some residents in Iredell requested the movement of the monument to a private location where people could choose to see it if they wished. The request came during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting
Chairman James Mallory said he wanted to continue a conversation about inequality and poverty in Iredell County. The conversation can include a discussion about what should be done with the monument but should also cover problems and solutions for issues affecting quality of life for county residents.
Local NAACP President Todd Scott said removing the statue could be one of the first steps toward solidarity in Iredell.
“These statues were put up from the 1890s to the 1920s, some in the 40s, 50s and 60s which puts them in the era of Jim Crow,” Scott said during the meeting. “They were put up as a form or reference of intimidation for African Americans.”
Scott said he could not think of another example where people who lost a war could build monuments. Having lived in Germany for three years, he never saw a monument for Nazis.
He said people cannot honor two flags, referencing the American flag and the Confederate flag. If the statue remains, he will be back next month to make the same request.
“No justice, no peace,” Scott said.
Skip McCall asked why there should be monuments for people who defended the enslavement of other humans.
Most Confederate monuments were erected in the early 1900s, decades after the Civil War. McCall claimed the monuments were not erected to honor the past but to support Jim Crow legislation.
“We have an opportunity before us. It’s an opportunity to move forward and to demonstrate to members of the African American community that we are being heard, we are being understood and a change is certainly to come,” McCall said.
Alicia Standish pointed out that she does not see British statues or flags despite America’s history as British colonies before the American Revolution.
“Where are the British statues? They’re where they belong, in history,” she said during the public comment section of the meeting. “That’s where history belongs, in textbooks, in museums, in cemeteries, not center city.”
Daryl Davidson said he remembered coming to downtown Statesville as a child and not knowing what the statue was. He took a class in the 10th grade specifically about the Civil War. Afterward, he made the effort to educate himself more about it, going to Gettysburg, plantations and museums.
He mentioned Black heroes in the Civil War like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. If the Confederate monuments are about heritage, where are the monuments celebrating men and women like Tubman and Douglass, he asked?
“There was a time when people wanted to own me. There was a time where it was possible the Confederates could have won that war and where would we actually be or where would I actually be today?” Davidson said. “If you’re going to talk about the heritage and history of the Confederate Army and of the war and of Confederate soldiers, no puzzle is complete without all the pieces. Tell the truth. Tell the truth about everything.”
Davidson said he would like to see the monument relocated to a museum or another location where it could be framed with context.
“To treat someone as an equal costs nothing,” Davidson said. “To treat someone as less than equal could cost them their life.”
The Iredell Board of Commissioners also:
» Approved the 2020-2021 budget.
» Heard a report about how the county has been impacted by the coronavirus.
» Recognized Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Brady Johnson. Johnson is retiring at the end of the month.
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