TO THE EDITOR:
Every day I stand in front of the Confederate flag and monument on the courthouse lawn in Beaufort. I think Carteret County can present a more inspiring face to the public, and we should safely move the statue off public property. To most people the statue represents white supremacy, Jim Crow, lynching, and slavery, which are not the finest elements of our Southern tradition.
I am a retired prosecutor and do not want anyone to deface, damage or topple the statue unlawfully. I have made it very clear to the Police and Sheriff’s departments that if anyone tries to commit such unlawful acts while I am there, I will be the first to call 911. What I want is a process of gradual discussion and education. That is why I was actually encouraged to see some of our citizens out exercising their First Amendment rights peacefully in front of the statue on July 20th. That is democracy, and the discussion continues.
Not everything about that event was laudatory, however. I started seeing warnings weeks before that “antifa” was coming to town to do terrible things – this seems to have been made-up rumors and fearmongering, which is unfortunate. The truth is that no one here or elsewhere was planning any such thing – I would certainly fight it. But that is why I told everyone I knew not to appear at the courthouse, inside or out, on July 20th. I do not want angry confrontations; I do not want my town to become a media circus. Not only would that be personally painful to me, but guys we rely on tourist dollars and it is in ALL of our interests to keep these discussions civil and peaceful.
What jarred me a bit about the July 20th meeting were the remarks of a County Commissioner: “It was placed there for the right reasons by the right people and you won’t see [my] name in favor of taking down a monument to the dead.”
It was placed there in 1926, at the height of the era of Jim Crow, lynching, and violent white “redemption,” intentionally in front of Beaufort’s historic black church. The benediction was given by the Grand Dragon of the KKK. I suspect that that is what the commissioner was referring to when he said, “right reasons and right people.” If he did not mean that, he should clarify his remarks. Also, it is not a monument to the dead. Had it been erected in the 1860’s at the graves of brave soldiers with their names on it, then it would be a monument to the dead, and I would support it. However, it is none of those things – it is a monument to white supremacy. Folks might want to read the June 16th article in the National Review (generally known as the “Bible of Conservatism,”) entitled, “Conservatives Should Feel no Investment in Confederate Monuments.”
I know that many of our citizens view the confederate flag as a symbol of Southern Pride or heritage. Look - I am a proud southerner, for many reasons, but not for a system created specifically to protect and spread a system of human bondage and white supremacy. Gee whiz, folks, we have better things to be proud of. I am very proud of my great-grandfather, who fought the Tsar in the Russian Revolution. However, I do not fly a Communist flag. I also have a lot of German heritage, as many Americans do – should we put up statues of Nazi soldiers to honor that heritage? OF COURSE NOT!!! It would be wildly inappropriate and un-American. Please take a moment, if you have not done so before, to consider that many see symbols of the confederacy in the same light. I know we hate Yankees telling us what to do – can we not just do this ourselves, out of respect to our own selves?