Along with high rate of violent crime, the horrible street conditions, homelessness and the chronic problems of over 50% unemployment among black males, it is beyond outrageous that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and members of the City Council are diverting the valuable resources of precious time and energy to divide citizens over the issue of Confederate memorials.
Landrieu has officially called for the removal of four monuments and the renaming of two streets. A lengthy hearing was held at council chambers to debate this issue. The Mayor’s request occurred several weeks after nine African Americans were killed in a Charleston church by a young deranged white racist. Prior to the Charleston killings, there had never been an organized effort to remove the Confederate statues in New Orleans. Sadly, Landrieu used the tragedy to target the monuments and score cheap political points. He is obviously trying to divert the public’s attention from the soaring murder rate and the fact that over the past few weeks, there has been, on average, at least one murder per day.
Politically, he may try to use this issue to galvanize support in the African American community for a city charter change which will allow him to run for a third term. If that fails, he may try to switch positions with U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) and run for Congress. Otherwise, when his term ends, he will have to finally leave government and find a job in the private sector, unfamiliar territory for Mitch Landrieu.
Fortunately, not everyone is falling for this divisive political gamesmanship. Reverend Raymond Brown, former associate of Reverend Al Sharpton, and President of National Action Now, believes that the monuments should stay and the focus should be on a job training facility for the underprivileged citizens of New Orleans. Brown says he has received no help from the Landrieu administration despite his repeated attempts to receive their cooperation on a job training facility. In a city with such a high African American unemployment rate, the lack of action is appalling.
Of course it is easier to make cheap political statements about historic monuments than do the tough work of the present day. For a city that has third world streets littered with potholes and broken street lights and owes money to everyone from firefighters to plaintiffs in innumerable lawsuits, it is unclear where the money will be found to dismantle these monuments.
Along with the financial concerns, the monuments should be retained for they represent a part of New Orleans history. In fact, the attempt to remove these statues is an attack on the city’s history, which has both positive and negative periods. We should remember all parts of our history, to learn and be able to avoid repeating the mistakes in the future. A better way to prepare for the tri-centennial in 2018 would be for New Orleans to embrace its history. Tourists come to New Orleans to see historical sites such as Lee Circle, so removing these sites makes the city a less interesting place to visit.
Any attempt to remove the statues will be met with lawsuits filed by those who care about historic preservation. Obviously, the monuments have value and belong on public display. As noted by historic preservationist Jason Sutton, the Confederate statues should be retained, but the funds should be raised to build statues to commemorate African Americans who played important roles in the city’s history. Thus our history should not be destroyed, but illuminated and the contributions of significant figures should be recognized.
Landrieu’s monument crusade has also opened up a dangerous can of worms. Some radical activists are now calling for the statues of Jackson and Bienville to be removed because they owned slaves. Others are demanding that the fleur-de-lis symbol be banned because it was used to brand slaves. Others want the street names honoring slave owning former Presidents such as Jefferson and Washington to be changed.
These counter-productive demands will keep coming, thanks to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Fortunately, citizens of New Orleans are fighting back. An online petition has been launched by Tim Shea Carroll to “Save our Circle.” It has attracted close to 15,000 signatures and it is growing quickly.
To sign up, go to http://chn.ge/1fG9SeL and let Mayor Landrieu know about the folly of his initiative. Another way to express opposition is to call City Hall at #504-658-1060. Yet, you may receive the same response as one of my radio show listeners who called the Mayor’s office. She asked where the funds would come from to remove the statues. She was given no response, an answer that speaks volumes.