Stone Mountain’s Repugnant and Persistent Legacy
I was watching a Wanda Sykes comedy routine a few weeks ago when she commented on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Stone Mountain is in a state-owned park near Atlanta and has a massive, 400-foot Confederate sculpture including Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and the aptly-named “Stonewall” Jackson carved into its side. It was also the site of a cross burning ceremony in 1915 that symbolized the resurgence of the KKK after a period of relative inactivity. The United Daughters of the Confederacy conceived the idea, and it was completed in 1972, after the Civil Rights movement started, indicating their tenacity in its establishment: that these groups had no intention of granting either civility or rights to African-Americans.
This is no ‘purple mountain majesty;’ it’s just more of the same old white supremacy. Sykes stated that when she was driving by the monument, she felt badly because she had to acknowledge that there was still strong positive sentiment about her subordination and her inferiority as an African-American woman. But shouldn’t this monument create a sense of disgust in any decent human being? This response can be both about sympathy for the gross injustices done to African-Americans which persist in our institutions as well as our own investment in not participating in white supremacy.
As a mixed-race, non-black woman of color, I feel I am obligated to see the way in which this sculpture supports white supremacy by its very persistence both because African-Americans merit justice that has yet to be received and because the elimination of white supremacy is the end goal. All of us should be invested in this goal.
This sculpture is a giant middle finger facing the populace of the country, first at the dawn of the Civil Rights era as backlash, then persistent to this day as a way to remind African-Americans of their place: ie, subordinate. Repeat: 1. this monument glorifies efforts to uphold the ownership of one entire continent’s people AND 2. its continued presence maintains white supremacy. This fact should disgust all people who consider themselves members of a moral species.
White supremacy was established as a binary, and at its core, that’s what it is. Therefore, one cannot be ‘kind of’ anti-racist. There’s no turning your head away from a 3-acre monstrosity that looks like one big white supremacist ‘f*** you’ held up to the black (and to some extent, non-white) world when it’s carved in a national park; at least not if one considers oneself a citizen of this nation AND a moral human being. The mountain’s sculpture has to go, or one is taking a white supremacist stance, and this is true regardless of one’s ‘race.’ There’s no in-between on overt white supremacist symbols.
Sykes shouldn’t have to mention it. Neither should Stacey Abrams, who due to its persistent presence and her work as a politician in Georgia has no choice but to discuss it. She exhibited a great deal of restraint and tact calling it a ‘blight,’ and then calling for its immediate sandblasting.
The most embarrassing thing for me as an American: that, in 2019, the removal of a monument uplifting ownership of humans even needs to be discussed.