US Confederate statues a reminder of black oppression - historian

A ceremony to mark the removal of a statue of the general Robert E. Lee who led the confederacy in the American Civil War was held in New Orleans over the last week.

The statue of Lee, who commanded Confederate armies against the Union in the Civil War of 1861-65, was the most prominent and the last of New Orleans' four Confederate monuments.

The significance of confederate statues is a hot political issue in the US with many people insisting these statues are symbols that glorify those who fought to keep slaves. Others believe that they are a part of history and should not be removed.

During the ceremony the mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu gave a speech saying: "...those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth."

Stephen Grootes spoke to history lecturer, Dr Nomalaga Mkhize about this controversial issue.

In the first instance, it is very important not to sanitise the oppression of black people just because time has passed.....you have to face up, just like the mayor of New Orleans is saying, you have to face up to the horror of it.

Nomalanga Mkhize, History lecturer at Rhodes University

Now having said that the question is how do you deal with the monuments of those who were party those kinds of atrocities....because of the nature of our society, I think what we haven't quite come to terms with is how do we deal with the heritage in a way that doesn't necessarily re-trigger or re-traumatise, if we are removing statues, with what spirit are we doing it?

Nomalanga Mkhize, History lecturer at Rhodes University

The sensitivity is not for the statue, it is to the Africans who have the memory of oppression.

Nomalanga Mkhize, History lecturer at Rhodes University

Click on the link below to listen to the full interview...


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