Ever since Dylann Roof massacred a number of African American parishioners while at Bible study, politicians throughout the south have been scrambling to remove every vestige of the old Confederacy and the Civil War. Schools which were named after Civil War figures are being renamed. Confederate battle flags are being hauled down from public spaces. New Orleans has even gone so far as to remove public statues of Confederate figures such as Robert E. Lee. However, the state of Alabama is moving in a slightly different direction where it comes to Confederate heritage.

Alabama moved to protect symbols and monuments of the Confederacy

According to the Associated Press, the measure that just passed in the Alabama Legislature would have the effect of protecting public monuments, including statues, names of schools and streets, and so on. The language of the bill, “would prohibit the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument" that has stood on public property for 40 or more years." A new state commission has been formed to rule on attempts to make such alterations if the said monument or name is between 20 and 40 years old.

The preservation bill sparks controversy

Understandably, African American lawmakers are incensed about the bill, viewing such monuments to be symbols of racism and oppression. The idea is that a state or any political entity should not celebrate an institution that was based on the preservation of slavery, not to mention the breakup of the United States into two countries.

Supporters of the bill decry what they see as “political correctness” and suggest that destroying history, no matter how unedifying, is something that the Taliban or ISIS does, not Americans. The two opposing views are not reconcilable.

Condi Rice weighs in

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a prominent African-American academic who served in the George W.

Bush administration, recently commented on the trend to deconfederize the south. She opposes the effort to remove statues and monuments, based on the notion that all it does is to erase history so that people can feel better about themselves.

In Dr. Rice’s view, all of those statues to Robert E. Lee and schools and streets named after Jefferson Davis should be left in place as teaching tools. Such monuments should not be used to glorify the Confederacy and what it represented, but as a means to understand it and learn from it. The principle that if one does not learn from history one may be doomed to repeat it applies here.