American Graffiti

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On the night of May 23rd, someone spray-painted the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park, a monument that depicts a white family sending a soldier off to fight in the Confederate war effort. The graffiti included an anarchist symbol painted over the soldier, a Black Lives Matter placard positioned behind the family’s heads, and phrases like “Stop Defending Injustice” and “This is Treason” on the monument’s base.

The St. Louis Parks Department was on the scene the very next morning removing the placard and scrubbing off the paint.

{image by Joe Kolk}

Two years earlier, in the wake of the June 2015 massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, individuals spray-painted the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park. They wrote “Black Lives Matter” and “Fuck the Confederacy” on the base and splattered the inscription with red.

The next morning authorities scrubbed off the paint.

In both cases, graffiti is not beside the point, nor so readily scrubbed away. While the monument depicts white experience, that’s not all it depicts. Graffiti gives expression to the thing that, by its very absence from the monument, is shouting at us: the matter of African American experience, and especially the violence to which black lives under white supremacy have long been, and continue to be, subject. Leaving the Confederate Memorial in place, unscrubbed and unsanitized, with its graffiti in full view, would serve to “[right] the wrong image these monuments represent and [craft] a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations,” the worthy goals cited by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in his justification for the removal of four Confederate monuments in that city.

The well-intended impulse to bury such monuments, à la Mayor Landrieu, or to preserve them as museum artifacts, as some have proposed, is analogous to the misguided impulse to celebrate them. Thinking of the memorials and such graffiti together, removal has the effect of hiding black bodies and black trauma from public view.

We need graffiti. Indeed, to accomplish what Landrieu is calling for––taking the Confederacy off its “pedestal in our most prominent places of honor”––we need to acknowledge the trauma, rage and rejection graffiti expresses. Taking down a monument that represents toxic histories erases it as a site of living struggle, defeating historical understanding and full democratic ownership of the American past.

Yes, these monuments have a painful, even traumatic impact on many viewers; they represent a celebration of violence and white supremacy. But Black Lives Matter graffiti on a monument does more to advance public healing and understanding than no monument at all.

Healing requires not only a willingness to confront what the memorial represented in the past––the views and interests of defenders of the Confederacy––but also to interrogate the motives behind today’s frantic calls for removal. The stakes of St. Louis’s monument controversies and those of other cities such as New Orleans and Baltimore include the matter of who controls urban space, and how it is used. As terms like ‘defacing’ and ‘vandalism’ suggest, those stakes also concern the sanctity of public and private property. Officials who call for the scrubbing or relocation of such monuments mean not only to sanitize their city’s reputation, but also to discourage future ‘vandals’ from making claims. Their actions reveal an interest in maintaining urban public spaces as precincts of order, respectability, and uncontroversial history––which is to say no history at all.

The monument controversies sweeping the cities of the New South are fundamentally existential ones: they concern what anthropologist Mary Douglas called purity and danger. There is inherent risk in a public life in which memorials can become sites of political-historical engagement––where debate flows freely and authorities and citizens are willing to call into question sacred values of all kinds. We must ask: do the dreams of development in post-Ferguson St. Louis (as in post-Katrina New Orleans) mandate purification of public space and public memory, and foreclosure of ‘dangerous’ uses of either?

On Tuesday, May 30th, St. Louisans awoke to learn that the freshly-scrubbed Confederate Memorial had been marked again––this time with “End Racism,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Nat Turner Lives.” That night police patrolled the area and shined a high-powered spotlight on the monument, now surrounded with crowd control barriers––apparently an effort to prevent “vandalism” and other contentious activity at the site.

This cat-and-mouse game will soon come to an end: city authorities are preparing to remove the monument from the park. But we’re living through a classic moment of democratic disruption. St. Louis has had to attend to the matter of Confederate memory before it could continue the work of urban progress. It has had to ask itself: Is it the city that preserved the Confederate Memorial? Is it the city that removed the Memorial? Is it a city where ad hoc acts of public memory––including not only monument graffiti but also protest and graffiti at the Ferguson QuikTrip in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death, and temporary memorials at the site where his body lay for hours on Canfield Drive––shape the stories of progress it can tell?

The Confederate Memorial, still intact at this writing, should be left alone, along with its graffiti: This does not represent capitulation to those who would celebrate the Confederacy, but rather an acknowledgment of the messy and violent histories embodied in such sites which will always defy efforts at either consecration or cleanup.

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  • Sam

    Anarchists accusing treason? Contradrict much?

    Honestly, the vast majority of the men who shed blood for the confederacy were poor people doing what the aristocracy told them was right. I have no problem with a memorial dedicated to those men and women.

    I do have a problem with a monument to Lee, S Jackson, J Davis etc and (in the case of our monument in FP) a monument dedicated to the “spirit” of the confederacy.

  • STLrainbow

    I didn’t cherry-pick anything; your stating that the Confederacy was not worse than the Unionists but they just lost the war is a stop-the-presses headline grabber and suggests maybe you’re just a little off-base with things.

    As for your claim that Germany surely has many memorials to the dead WW2 soldiers honoring the ideals of the Nazis in a manner similar to what’s now at Forest Park, I sincerely hope that you can find the time to undertake that research. Long live General Sigel.

    • Nick

      Dude, I was merely pointing out that the federal government had spent centuries committing nothing short of genocide in various forms, and yet we take no issue with monuments to that history. You somehow construe that to me being a slavery apologist. Get your head out of your ass.

  • David Hoffman

    Anyone who argues for this monument to stay, for any reason, is racist. End of story.

    • Matthew W. Hall

      What gives you the power to ‘end’ stories?

    • studs

      It’s a little more complicated than that. I appreciate sensitivity over the monument’s historical reference, subject matter, etc., but I am also concerned about an emerging zeal in our land to expunge anything deemed unsavory or “offensive” from the public sphere. More and more people at large seem to acquiesce in the notion that keeping everyone everywhere from being uncomfortable or offended by anything is of paramount importance. What if there is next a call for, say, Jefferson Avenue to be renamed? What if those calling for it say it is hurtful for them to drive down a street named in honor of a slave-raping hypocrite? And that any white person who thinks having a street called Jefferson Avenue is okay is embracing the appalling history of human bondage? Washington Avenue? Locally, Henry Shaw engaged in established practices of his era, including use of slave labor. Does that fact require formal disavowal of his legacy in St. Louis? Maybe renaming and dismantling of some things, like the statue of Christopher Columbus in Tower Grove Park? We risk sinking into a chaotic morass in which an ongoing chorus of moral outrage demands increasingly that we somehow edit history, historical figures and public views into meek compliance with contemporary views and standards. I would not dismiss the impulse to do this as totally baseless, but I do think that there is a manufactured furor at work that distracts us from issues of our time that are more pressing. I may be personally offended by things I see and hear every day, but generally take those as emblematic of the free civil society I live in.

      • STLrainbow

        It’s not really that complicated…. what we have there in Forest Park is racist propaganda that needs to be removed.

        • HawkSTL

          Agreed — removing this monument will erase history and solve all of the City’s problems. Wait . . .

          • STLrainbow

            If you understood history you would know that this is racist propaganda.

          • jhoff1257

            I don’t really care whether the monument stays or goes, but the idea that its removal “erases” history is just ridiculous. I and every other American did and will continue to learn about the history of the Civil War and its causes in school. Not from a monument the vast majority of us didn’t know existed a year and half ago. The Civil War was one of the darkest periods in this country’s history, the removal of a statue in St. Louis (or any other city) isn’t going to eliminate that history.

          • HawkSTL

            So by that logic, you would be okay with demolishing the Vietnam Memorial? Various Holocaust Memorials around the world? Yes, ridiculous, but nevertheless the same . . .

          • jhoff1257

            Those are some glaring false equivalences and you know it. No one is suggesting removing those monuments and memorials in any form as they actually memorialize people that fought and died for the United States. Not a group of traitors whose basis for secession was the enslavement of an entire race of people. Not even remotely the same, but whatever helps you sleep at night bud.

          • HawkSTL

            Nope — you’re proving my below post perfectly: “Being against racism makes us feel good. Feel that we are superior. Gives us people to look down on as backward, immoral, and dumb. It gives us endorphins to feel that we can fight against something so wrong. Also, there is no one to really confront. Who is pro-racism in today’s world beyond fringe groups? Meanwhile, 92% (69 out of 75) of the homicide victims in the City for 2017 are black. That doesn’t hit the pleasure spot in anyone’s brain. So we continue to fight against nameless and faceless boogeymen while people are being gunned down daily. Yay us. Way to make a difference.”

          • jhoff1257

            I’m not proving any of your idiotic points. I’m not fighting against anything either. The South lost, get over it. Before I read this piece and many of the asinine comments underneath it, I didn’t really care what happened either way. But thanks for enlightening me…I hope they grind it down to dust and bury it in a landfill…preferably the Bridgeton Landfill.

            Enjoy your weekend.

          • HawkSTL

            Keep patting yourself on the back. For the record, those in my family who were in the US in the 1860s were fervent abolitionists. You know, when it actually mattered. But, in your own mind, I’m sure you think that you’re right there with them. Keep making a difference every day and inspiring us . . .

        • STLEnginerd

          I would argue the memorial is propaganda aimed at absolving the south of its collective guilt in threatening the indivisibility of the republic. That is what so many at the turn of the century thought was the true sin.

          They just happened to be fighting to uphold a contextually acceptable and historically indefensible economic system of forced servitude.

          I really don’t interpret the memorial to be “racist” just insensitive to how race influenced and inflamed the tension of the body politic in the mid 1800s.

          That said i have come to accept the memorial in its current form doesn’t belong in Forest Park. The nuanced story behind the WHY of the monument just isn’t clear enough. I think if you imagine an young child looking at the statue and trying to draw meaning, its easy to see why it would reinforce feelings of inequality, and segregation. And that is just not acceptable in Forest Park.

          But i will say again leaving it with the graffiti is the MOST ridiculous idea ever published by this site.

          • sam

            Slavery in 1860 wasn’t even contextually acceptable. The trade had been outlawed by both the British and US for over 50 years by then. Mexico had long abolished slavery.

            It was embarrassing even in 1860

      • jhoff1257

        So many false equivalencies here. Yes, Jefferson, Washington, Shaw, Columbus, etc were products of their time and many, if not most of them, used slaves. However they didn’t base their entire existence on the protection of slavery and all of them contributed significantly to development of this country (or City in Shaw’s case). Jefferson was dead nearly 40 years before the Civil War even started, Washington had been dead over 60 years. The entire purpose of the Confederacy (and it’s written in each of the State’s Articles of Secession) was to protect the institution of slavery. Just take the attached image from the State of Mississippi. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f03883c7b09c164a9163d14cd0636c0804382df4d01767476a7857d23bd12bcb.jpg

        • studs

          And people base real actions on false equivalencies all the time. I don’t condone it. I don’t think Jefferson Avenue should be renamed. The point is that once something “hurtful” or “divisive” is identified as inappropriate for public view, it is easier to make a case based on precedent for removal/changes of yet more things deemed “divisive” and “hurtful” in the future. With a galvanizing bludgeon of “racism” at their disposal, those demanding these might effectively browbeat certain people into acceding to their irrational demands. That concerns me. Few politicos and public figures want reasoned and sustained debate with a crowd of people accusing them of racism, however baseless and illogical that accusation may be.

          • jhoff1257

            “And people base real actions on false equivalencies all the time. I don’t condone it.”

            If you don’t condone it, then don’t do it.

          • studs

            I don’t do it. I didn’t do it. I DON’T think there is a reasonable comparison between the respective legacies of Thomas Jefferson, Henry Shaw, George Washington, Columbus, and the Confederate memorial. Other unreasonable people might say there is. Have you heard about college students calling for censorship of educational material and “safe spaces” on campus? I contend that unreasonable people exist and allege unreasonable things all the time. That is my point. I would make it simpler, but I can’t.

      • sam

        check your privilege, bro

        • studs

          I love it when people talk like bumper stickers to people they don’t know. Per your suggestion, I just checked my privilege. It’s fine. Thanks for the concern. You might check your self-righteous presumption. I think it’s leaking. And have a nice day. And I’m not your bro.

    • StillOkie

      It all started at the Tower of Babel David Hoffman…

      Over the past 500 or so years, many intellectual elites and their books have created our story of racism. They developed our initial ideas of race in Western society and solidified the attitudes and beliefs that gradually followed under
      the influence of their economic and political policies.

      http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123

      • Adam

        Right. Racism has only existed for ~500 years and was created by the “intellectual elites”. Where do these random 1-post nut jobs come from?

  • STLrainbow

    Just take the thing down. Graffiti on top of offensive propaganda is not a situation of two wrongs making a right,

  • studs

    I can see both sides of the argument, i.e., whether to keep the monument or remove it. A public monument is an inherently honorary gesture. The notion that the Confederate monument is a neutral reminder of educational import and history does not ring true. It is intended to honor the Confederacy and by reasonable extension, all the Confederacy stood for. On the other hand, it is a historical monument and a beautiful work of art. Irrespective of what it represents, I like it and am sorry to see it go. Perhaps our community can now have a candid conversation about removing the hurtful Vonderrit Myers memorial at Shaw and Klemm in the Shaw neighborhood. Myers was a violent felon who died violently after firing a stolen weapon at a police officer. This is not an ideological statement. It is borne out by forensic evidence, ballistics, eyewitness testimony, and documented facts. Given the tremendous concern over crime in our city, the countless lives affected by violence and unlawful use of guns, how can we leave a monument to a violent felon standing in the public right of way in a city neighborhood?

    • jhoff1257

      Is that memorial to Myers owned and maintained by the city and in a public park? Or is it just something some local residents put out? I’m not arguing Myers record, but there’s a huge difference here. If you have an issue with that little memorial then I suggest you take it up with the people (most likely his family and friends) that put it there.

      • studs

        The memorial to Myers is not maintained by the city and is not in a public park. It is, however, in the public right of way and is indeed “something some local residents put out”. There was no official process or public approval to place it there. A public memorial, however modest or grand, in a public place (park or right of way) is an inherently honorary civic gesture. I stated before that I see both sides of the issue with the Confederate memorial. I appreciate those who object to a public monument essentially honoring traitors and slave holders. That is not hard to understand. What is harder to understand is the irrational and vehement support for a public memorial to someone like Vonderrit Myers. The hard, unambiguous facts of his case have been soundly established and are available to all who care about things like facts. The fact that most neighborhood residents likely dislike and resent the memorial may not be evident because many fear accusations of racism or racial insensitivity if they speak stridently against it. Also, given some of the violent activity associated with that memorial and its location, they may reasonably fear for their physical safety. Nonetheless, the city has received requests to remove the memorial and I hope it will do so soon, as is its right and its duty, in my opinion. It has yet to do so likely because of the same inhibiting factors cited above.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    Graffiti isn’t democratic. It’s the act of an individual reaction to the collective decisions of institutions, democratic or otherwise. Democracy is open and free elections.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    The Confederates weren’t Fascists. They were Capitalists.

    • Steve Kluth

      Fascism has no problem thriving in a capitalist economy. The leaders usually make out like the bandits they are.

      • Matthew W. Hall

        Fascists and capitalists can get along for a time, but in the end conflicts over property rights and economic choice undermine capitalist compatibility with authoritarianism. Capitalism and liberalism need each other to sustain themselves.

  • STL Forever

    The loser coward who spray painted the statue is a criminal. We need to focus more on crime and less and catering to criminals by removing statues. I am disappointed in the efforts taken to move a statue that should be focused on stopping crime.

    What lesson does it provide when “demands” from nonpeaceful criminals are met? These “protestors” are perpetuating the very thing they self righteously proclaim to stop. It’s not productive. It is not a solution for improvement. Pathetic.

  • HawkSTL

    Let’s face it, no one knew this memorial was in Forest Park until a few years ago. It is in a corner on street that few ever used. But now, it is a big issue. Why? Being against racism makes us feel good. Feel that we are superior. Gives us people to look down on as backward, immoral, and dumb. It gives us endorphins to feel that we can fight against something so wrong. Also, there is no one to really confront. Who is pro-racism in today’s world beyond fringe groups? Meanwhile, 92% (69 out of 75) of the homicide victims in the City for 2017 are black. Hardly a peep about that (other than continual news reports). That doesn’t hit the pleasure spot in anyone’s brain. So we continue to fight against nameless and faceless boogeymen. Yay us.

    • STL Forever

      Totally agree. It’s a baseless accusation and a “fight” with no integrity. It is the equivalent to “crying wolf” with no positive outcome. It’s noise with no substance wrapped in disguise.

    • Andy

      Almost no one knew about the radioactive waste in the bridgeton landfill until recently. But now, it’s a big deal. See how the logic there is flawed.

      Just because purple are not aware of an issue does not mean it should not be addressed when the issue is raised and awareness is heightened.

      • Nick

        Yours is a perfect analogy. People are also overreacting to the radioactive waste in the Bridgeton landfill. The EPA has repeatedly released test results showing no harmful effects caused by the waste at the site. I have heard several Wash U professors on StL Public Radio say the same thing, over and over again.

        Residents’ desire to see the Confederate Memorial come down is also a decision based on emotion. It will cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to dismantle it. That’s one less police officer for five years, or one less teacher in North City for several years, or one less park renovation in a poor neighborhood. We could probably fund a homeless shelter for a considerable amount of time with that money.
        There are a lot of better uses for this money to disenfranchised St. Louis citizens. And in the end, removing the statue will do nothing to heal the city. In a few months’ time, everyone will forget it was ever there in the first place, again, and it will be business as usual.

        The irrationality of the pitchfork mob wins again.

        • Andy

          I agree with you and I believe the rational and fiscally sound decision would be to use public funds in a way that would have a greater impact on disaffected communities in the city. I was simply pointing out that people being unaware off an issue does not mean when the issue is raised that it should not be addressed.

          I personally think that they should have a sign of explanation but at this point it’s simply a political move by Lyda so Jones can’t hold it over her.

        • STLEnginerd

          I do think the estimated cost to remove it is ridiculous. What is driving the cost estimate. I realize it is heavy but its not made of dark matter. Is it because the cost is to bring it down intact and unmarred…? Is it really so heavy a modern crane couldn’t lift it. They installed it 100 years ago… And the risk to utilities has to be pretty low right…?

          I am also surprised the gofundme or kickstarter route wasn’t pursued harder. Its perfectly legitimate to expect the private citizens that demand its removal to fund its removal.

          • Nick

            My guess is private funding wasn’t pursued more aggresively because of political pressure to get it down NOW NOW NOW.

            I work in construction, and thought the same thing about it being so expensive. My opinion is that yes, for sure a large part of the cost is because they are trying to keep it intact (probably could take it down with a few guys with jackhammers for tens of thousands of dollars). There are certainly modern cranes that could handle the weight, but you can’t mobilize or use a crane of that size in a wooded area like what’s around the statue. So now we’re probably talking a specialty contractor of some kind, add to it that it’s short notice, so the bid ends up pretty high.

  • Nick

    The issue I have with removing the statue is it’s the last visible reminder of a very dark period of the city’s history that I feel even many native St. Louisans are not familiar with. Everyone knows Missouri was a slave state, but not many people know that St. Louis citizens predominantly sided with joining the Confederacy at the onset of the war, that the Confederate flag has a star dedicated to Missouri (of which St. Louis was the only major city at the time), that slaves were shipped up the Mississippi to the Missouri River and offloaded in the Chesterfield Valley to work on Missouri tobacco and cotton farms, that St. Louis was a major port city for these slave-produced goods, or that many of our city’s greatest benefactors owned slaves (Henry Shaw for example).

    St. Louis was basically a Confederate city that was just occupied by the Union very quickly…and no one recognizes that today. I’m not saying that should be celebrated. I’m saying that should be remembered. Removing reminders of that is counterproductive in that regard.

    Moving it to a museum would be a fine solution, I suppose, but I have yet to hear anyone claim they will take it (I don’t think the History Museum has room for it). I would propose keeping the memorial in place and spend the removal money converting it more into a memorial for civil rights, or something similar.

    • Framer

      The Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks has said that they would take it, but they won’t pay for the move.

      • Nick

        According to the Post Dispatch, because Jefferson Barracks won’t pay for the move, that deal has fallen through.

        • Andy

          It feel through because the city refused to give up future control of the monument, not over the money.

        • Framer

          From today’s Post:

          “Representatives from the Missouri Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks insist they’re still able and interested in taking the monument off the city’s hands. A previous attempt at an agreement between the museum and former Mayor Francis Slay’s administration fell apart after the museum asked the city to provide for the moving expenses.

          Krewson’s office confirmed to the Post-Dispatch last month that the city remained uninterested.

          “The door has been slammed,” museum director Mark Trout told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday. “That’s why we’re here at this committee.”

          Since the bill lays out a way to raise private funds, Trout told the panel that he was confident he could raise $130,000 for the removal “in a matter of days.” “

    • wabash

      ^Where’d you learn that version of history? Never heard that before. Any book or essay recommendations?

      • Nick

        A quick and dirty version can be found on Wikipedia…’Little Dixie’ describes the heavy slave counties of Missouri. Look up Nathaniel Lyon, who was the General that took over the city Arsenal so the Confederates wouldn’t take it (also the first Union general to die in the war). The Camp Jackson Affair article describes a riot that occurred in the city after Lyon paraded a bunch of Confederate prisoners around. Look up Claiborne Jackson to read about our Confederate Governor. The article on the Confederate Flag describes the addition of Missouri.

        If you visit the Tower Grove house, the basement display describes Shaw’s slave owning practices.

        A more academic version can be found in the book Yankee Merchants and the Making of the Urban West: the rise and fall of Antebellum St. Louis.

        I’ll admit my claim that the city of St. Louis was mostly pro-Confederate is debatable. At the time we were heavily German and the German immigrants were apparently very anti-slavery. However the fact that the Camp Jackson Affair happened at all, and given that such a large part of the local economy revolved around slave activity, I bet it Confederate sympathy was pretty high. Since there was no survey taken that’s probably something we’ll never really know.

        • wabash

          Yeah, that’s a very different take than a lot of the more academic work out there. Saying that “St. Louis was basically a Confederate City” is just wrong.

          The fact that the Confederacy may have put a star on their flag representing MO is much more aspirational than anything. MO was never a part of the confederacy and was a Union state for the entirety of the Civil War. General Lyon (as in Lyon Park in Soulard) saw to that. The Confederate governor was exiled from power and basically relegated to camping out in the far southwesterly corner of the state for the remainder of the war. As for The Camp Jackson Affair, there being some secessionists around and agitating doesn’t mean St. Louis or even the state was Confederate. The State (as a whole) held a convention to determine if it wanted to take a secessionist or unionist stance, it chose the Union. And St. Louis was the most cosmopolitan, german/bohemian immigrant influenced part of the whole state.

          Check out The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War for a direct look at St. Louis and the Civil War – or Lion of the Valley which has a chapter on the period – the book you mentioned appears to focus on the commercial rise of St. Louis before the war.

          • Nick

            What I mean by calling St. Louis a Confederate city is that we’ve always had more cultural ties to the south than the north, economically, musically, culinary, etc.

            And yes the state of Missouri was more centrist than other southern states, but those same delegates who voted to stay in the Union also made a point to declare that they felt the North should leave the South to its own affairs, and that they should avoid war to keep the Union together.

            And to say ‘well because Nathaniel Lyon garissoned the city early on, therefore it was never a Confederate City’ shows just how close St. Louis was to actually being a Confederate stronghold. It very easily could’ve swung the other way. And the only major battle in the state was won by the Confederates, so by that line of reasoning I can say Missouri was staunchly Confederate.

            And to say StL was some Bohemian oasis in Missouri, most cities, just like today, were more liberal than the rural areas, even in the south…and especially in regards to slavery. We are much more like Memphis and New Orleans than we are Chicago and Minneapolis.

          • Wabash

            Well, I disagree with most of what you just wrote, including the sweeping generalizations and misquotations. But I’ll just leave it at that. Back to the Confederate monument being dismantled.

          • Nick

            That’s fine, your rebuttal is full of the same…at least I had the courtesy to address your points.

    • STL Forever

      No need to move it to a museum. It is NOT necessary and changes nothing.

  • Don

    “It would not come across as a statement of the complexity of the black
    experience, but as a reflection of the narrative so many want to cast on
    this city. The narrative of racism, and decay.”

    This. Very well said.

    Visiting Bavaria, I was relieved that they do not not feel a need to maintain all the symbols celebrating their “heritage” as the birthplace of Nazism. Their dark history has not been lost or forgotten or washed away because they turned away from, and actively removed, all the symbols of the hateful beliefs that gave rise to the crimes of Nazism. There are numerous memorials, moments and sites preserved including concentration and slave labor camps so that those crimes against humanity are never forgotten. Slavery was the original sin upon which the US was founded and our civil war was our confrontation of that horrible chapter. We have preserved that history in museums and battlefields and books and films. We do not need to maintain celebratory monuments for those who actively fought in the cause of human enslavement to remember our past.

    That statute can’t come down fast enough for me.

    • Nick

      “Visiting Bavaria, I was relieved that they do not not feel a need to maintain all the symbols celebrating their “heritage” as the birthplace of Nazism.”

      A quick Google search shows that throughout all of Germany, and Bavaria in particular, there are many WWII war memorials still around, some of which bear insignia largely used throughout the Nazi era (though it doesn’t look like any swastikas still exist). I don’t think it’s fair to claim that Germany is a good example of country that has taken the lead in removing memorials from a controversial time period.

      You could then argue “well, Germany has war memorials honoring their dead, not memorials to the Nazi regime per se. The Confederate memorial in Forest Park for example glorifies the war dead as well as “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.”

      So would a memorial to just the soldiers, with no glorification of the Confederacy, be more acceptable? My guess is probably not.

      • STLrainbow

        I think you’re mistaken about Germany… in Germany there are specific historical structures from the Nazi era that have presented a challenge on how to address them — Olympic Stadium, Nuremberg Rally Grounds, Hitler’s Bunker, etc. — as well as some contemporaneous memorials for the dead, which generally are the names added to existing memorials in war cemeteries. All of this against a backdrop of collective consciousness and reflection on the responsibility of Germans for the Holocaust and unjust, catastrophic war.

        What you don’t have at all are propaganda pieces erected a half-century removed from the horror inflicted by the perpetrators of evil like what exists in Forest Park. The Saint Louis piece is an intentional revisionist reach-back in history to proclaim the greatness of the cause and to inspire continued repression of African-Americans in an era of lynchings and Jim Crow. Really dark stuff.

        • Nick

          Your description of memorials in Germany is pretty close to what I just described…and it’s pretty similar to what many of our Confederate memorials are like in this country. I don’t have time to research, but I’m willing to bet you’d find
          some wording on many of German memorials that go beyond ‘honoring the dead’ that could be construed as honoring the ideas of the era. And there’s more than a few, there are dozens across Germany. Besides, at this point we’re kind of starting to split hairs.

          The real problem is the entire argument against ‘honoring the memory’ of the Condederacy is really silly if compared to the same concept with other nations. If you look at the history of the US federal government, for example, it’s just one heinous act after another going all the way back to Columbus landing on the shores of Hispaniola. I mean, the federal government eliminated an entire continent of natives. How is that less honorable than the institution of slavery? But it’s perfectly acceptable to honor the history of the US as a whole. Same is true for pretty much any nation that ever existed. Yet we villify the Confederacy as being particularly heinous. Reality is the Confederates were no worse than the Unionists, they just lost the war. It’s the hypocrisy of it all that I mostly find disgusting.

          • STLrainbow

            There it is… “Reality is the Confederates were no worse than the Unionists.” Congrats.

          • Nick

            My point that all nations’ governments do terrible things is apparently lost on you. Read a history book now and then. Are you really denying the federal government hasn’t committed heinous acts throughout its existence?

  • Nate

    Is NextSTL delving into click bait material now? Instead of providing a nuanced discussion engaging in critical thought, the authors throw out a rambling, nonsensical that jumps from multiple topics without actually saying anything. NextSTL is usually relatively good social commentary; this may be the worst piece i’ve read in the 6 years of reading this site.

    • Jakeb

      While I disagree with the recommendation of the authors, I don’t think you have accurately described the commentary.

      I think its a well reasoned attempt to propose a solution for a very difficult and very real issue in Saint Louis and across the US.

      • Nate

        Please provide specific examples from the article that support your assertion that this is a “well reasoned attempt” at anything other than taking a contrarian stand without regard to the consequences of their proposal.

        • Adam

          I think their reasoning was pretty clear. Neither immaculate maintenance nor complete removal of the monument adequately expresses current feelings toward it, while leaving the graffiti tells a more complete story. You may not agree with their reasoning, but I doubt you’ve got anything better. Other than the potential financial burden, what are “the consequences”? That descendants of confederate soldiers might have their feelings hurt? Who’s feelings should take precedence?

          • Nate

            First, dismissing the financial impact of removing the statue as inconsequential in a poor city at risk of having its credit rating downgraded for the 2nd time in 5 years while we struggle to find funds for public safety is pretty naive. Drawbacks to removing it would be less tourism to FP, increased and prolonged negative media coverage, and an increased volatility racial tensions and perhaps violence centered around a structure that I imagine you didnt even know existed until Mayor Slay tweeted about it 18 months ago.

          • Jakeb

            I don’t think you know what “drawbacks” means.

          • Nate

            Ah, so you would categorize all the things i’ve mentioned above as positives? im still waiting for those specific examples that support your argument, but please, keep making failed attempts at snarky replies.

          • Jakeb

            Keeping the statue in place would result in:
            1. less tourism to FP,
            2. increased and prolonged negative media coverage, and,
            3. an increased volatility racial tensions and,
            4. perhaps violence centered around a structure

            So maybe it’s ‘removal’ you don’t understand?

          • Nate

            Jakeb, if you take another look Adam asked me to list the consequences of not removing the statue. I am in agreement that it should be removed.

          • Adam

            sorry, i misinterpreted your reference to “consequences”. i agree that unbridled vandalism would likely decrease tourism and lead to other problems. see my comment above.

          • Adam

            i knew it existed, just never cared to visit it. it’s been a point of contention for more than 18 months. i agree that the financial burden on a strapped city is the ONLY legitimate argument against immediate removal. but if all or most of that money can be raised elsewhere then i see no defense for keeping it. there is zero evidence that removing it will have a negative impact on tourism (laughably unlikely, actually, especially given your contention that nobody knows about it). you’ve also mistaken my defense of their argument as support for free-for-all vandalism. i agree with the authors that the graffiti is an honest expression of complex social issues, and so i wouldn’t be opposed to SOME graffiti. but, obviously, inviting vandalism opens up a can of worms and will probably lead to a whole bunch of graffiti that is vulgar and has nothing to do with the relevant issues. so after some graffiti threshold, access to the monument would have to be restricted.

    • Guest

      I’m pretty disappointed with NextSTL ever since Alex announced he was moving to Cincinnati. Articles are fewer than usual, I’m reading things on the PD and STL Biz Journal that don’t have any mention on here (which typically wasn’t the case in the past) and he hasn’t done a Friday chat in almost a month. All this while just asking readers to donate $20,000 to improve the site. I understand growing pains of new leadership is bound to happen, but this is excessive.

  • Andy

    The suggestion that we should leave up an offensive monument with offensive language spray painted on it in our urban park that was just named one of the top 15 in the world is ridiculous and I can only take this as an attempt to be controversial.

    That would just be a great impression on the number of families that visit our city and drive through the park. “Mom, what does “Fuck the Confederacy” mean?”

    • guest

      …or “Blue Lives Murder” I saw spray painted on it.

  • STLEnginerd

    ummm… no. This is by far the worst suggestion for what to do with this memorial.

    I get the reasoning to bring the monument down, I also get why many perfectly NOT-racist people think it should stay. Leave it, destroy it, bury it, or if you want to leave it up but change the inscription to bring better context to the memorial. But leaving up with a sprayed on graffiti tag is just ridiculous. This is forest park not a modern art museum. It would not come across as a statement of the complexity of the black experience, but as a reflection of the narrative so many want to cast on this city. The narrative of racism, and decay.