They’re Gone

From the time I first moved here in 2009, the Confederate statues have disturbed and offended me, along with many others, natives and visitors alike. Now all four have finally been removed. It’s a good thing and it makes New Orleans a better place.

For those honestly concerned about the preservation of our history, no one in this city is going to forget history — especially the Civil War and its multi-century aftermath of racial division, segregation, enduring bitterness and violence. In fact New Orleans is a city that treasures and preserves history unlike almost any other place I know — sometimes consciously, through the wonderful work of archivists at the State Museum, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Public Library, Tulane’s Louisiana Division, the Notarial Archives, and many others — and sometimes spontaneously, through the ongoing musical, literary, artistic, and culinary cultures that make this a city like no other.

Mitch Landrieu has paid a heavy personal and political price for the principled and uncompromising stand he has taken against the monuments. Certainly he has given up any chance he ever might have had of running for statewide office. But he’s shown a tremendous amount of courage, a commodity in short supply in any corner of our current political universe, in the face of widespread hostility, ill will, and a surprising amount of overt hatred.

But the world that hates Mitch Landrieu, the world that sent him death threats for removing symbols of race domination — the world that saw veneration of the Confederacy as the natural birth legacy and obligation of the White Southerner, the world that looked up at General Lee on his pedestal and said “damn right” — that world is going away, of course slowly and with many setbacks and hesitations, but it’s going away, as surely as night yields to day, and a world in which we can build monuments that reflect our values, and not those of bitter defeated men from 150 years ago, is at long last coming into view.