Following the wave of mass protests against racial injustice sparked by the killing of George Floyd, people across the country are focusing their anger on tearing down and demanding the removal of statues, monuments, flags, and other symbols of the former Confederacy. These are representations of white supremacy and serve as constant reminders of the violence and oppression that millions of people, especially Black and American Indian people, have experienced for centuries at the hands of the rich and powerful. Their withdrawal from public spaces is long overdue, and finally, many have decided to take matters into their own hands.
For decades there has been outcry against these Confederate symbols, and a push to take them down, but those in power have refused to act. This time though, facing enormous pressure from the mass mobilization, politicians and corporations have been forced to respond. In Mississippi, the Governor swiftly signed a bill to have the Confederate emblem removed from the state’s flag. In Birmingham, Alabama, the city mayor preferred to get the city sued over the removal of a Confederate monument than to risk more protests. NASCAR banned the use of Confederate flags at all its races and events when its only full-time Black driver, Bubba Wallace, spoke out.
The removal of confederate icons came with an immediate backlash. Opponents claim that removing the statues is equivalent to erasing American history and cultural identity. Some have accused the protesters of being Marxist extremists who want to destroy the government. Trump went so far as to sign an executive order directing federal authorities to arrest and prosecute people who removed or damaged federal monuments with up to 10 years in prison!
But people are right in demanding the elimination of all symbols of racism, slavery, colonialism, and other forms of oppression. They serve no purpose other than to glorify these racists, ignoring their inhumanity. But we also need to go deeper. Toppling a monument or changing a flag will not end the systemic racism, violence, inequality, and exploitation that thrives under capitalism. Tackling these problems requires a complete transformation of the system we live under. What these mass actions and protests have shown us, however, is that we have the power to do so. It’s a matter of continuing to mobilize and organize our own forces to make it happen.
featured image credit: ABC 3340