tv Washington Journal Al Brophy on Efforts To Take Down Confederate Statues CSPAN August 22, 2017 12:10pm-12:42pm EDT
from me there is a tent city in front of city hall in which a number of people are camped out in front of city hall arguing for a more equitable redistribution or more equitable distribution of municipal resources to deal with the byproduct of segregation. so the symbolic stuff is one thing to pay attention to and push back against that. the other thing to pay attention to is the way people use this conversation to engage in a much broader conversation about equitable treatment. about equitable public policy. host: professor lester spence teaches at johns hopkins university. talking to us about the removal of confederate monuments. thanks for your time this morning. guest: thanks for having me. host: joining us to continue our conversation on confederate monuments is professor al brophy. a recent piece of his has the title, why the case for the removal of confederate memorials
is not so clear-cut. good morning. could you tell us why? guest: sure. i think the monuments are largely relics of the bad old days. i think it is important to leave them up so we understand and remember that there were once people who were in charge in places like charlottesville and richmond, virginia, and towns throughout the south and north who wanted to celebrate the confederacy and the war fought to maintain slavery. host: aside from leaving them up, what do you think about of what is currently going on with the dismantling of statues, and what do you think their proper role is if they come down? should they be placed in a museum or in some contexts? what is the best way to approach it? guest: a lot of great questions there.
one thing that interests me about the last couple of weeks and really going back to may when the monuments came down in new orleans is how quickly public opinion has changed. those monuments have been up for in many cases 100 years or close to that. there was not a whole lot of agitation to move them down, and then we saw how quickly public attitudes have changed. i think it is in some ways testimony to the idea that there is nothing so powerless as an idea whose time has passed. those public attitudes towards the confederacy has changed. it has been shocking how much change there has been since the tragedy in charlottesville. i completely understand the ideas. lester spence i thought did a phenomenal job of making the case for taking them down. i understand many people see them as relics, as vestiges of
white supremacy. i recognize those values. of balance things a little differently. i think it is important to preserve those monuments on the landscape so that people remember that there was once a celebration of the confederacy and the war fought to maintain slavery. and what i would say is look at the conversations we are having now about what the civil war was about, why people were putting celebrating and putting these monuments up. that is a great conversation. i think it is a great opportunity for learning, for national discussion. i think that conversation largely goes away once we take those monuments down. host: go ahead. guest: if as appears likely monuments are going to keep coming down, i suspect they will be falling all over the country
very, very soon. then there is the question of what do you do with them and what do you do with the space those monuments once were? i have an op-ed this morning that suggests maybe we should put more humane statues in their place. in's "womanve rod holding child." that celebrates some values other than war. what do you do with those statues once they are taken down? i am against taking them down. i think we need to contextualize them more. if you take them down, i think you need to preserve them somewhere to preserve as much of the memory that during the dark years of jim crow segregation people throughout the country erected statues to confederate war heroes. host: what is the best way to contextualize them if they should stay up? guest: that's a great question. i think there's a couple of things we can do. i love what happened in talbot
county, maryland, where there is obelisk to confederate soldiers and an opposite on the courthouse lawn, there is a statue of frederick douglass, the great abolitionist from talbot county. that is exactly what i want to do. we need to create a dialogue. douglass and the monuments to confederate soldiers are in dialogue. i think that is perfect. i think that is a brilliant idea. counter monuments, right behind the jefferson davis monument is a counter monument, the word love. i think these kinds of counter monuments invite discussion. obviously there needs to be sort of texts associated with the monuments. the jefferson davis monument in richmond, virginia, makes literally no reference to slavery. it talks about him as a defender of constitutionalism and the rights of states.
it erases the idea of slavery having anything to do with the civil war. that is i think the perfect place for having contextualization. whenever this was put up, right at the turn of the 20th century, slavery was being erased from the memory of the civil war. now we know more, and that is the kind of contextualization that invites discussion, not just a yes or no discussion to remove a statue. host: (202) 748-8001 for republicans. (202) 748-8000 for democrats. (202) 748-8002 for independents. our guest is al brophy, a professor at the university of alabama school of law. on thewritten books tulsa race riot of may 2 21. -- 1921. michael moore, illinois. you're up first. caller: good morning. i agree with the professor that
this should be a contextual issue. that is the point. this problem and the reason so many people voted for trump, including myself, was the fact that i grew up with affirmative action. i had to pay a price to give reparations to people that were suffering under jim crow and slavery legacy and so forth. if you want to solve this problem, you need to focus on the fact that when we go to correct some kind of ill of the past of this country, we never do it fairly. i would have been happy if they had tracked down these southern slaveholders and made their families pay for what they did. and the profits that they made.
but no, they came after me. my family never owned a slave. in fact, we fought to free them. that was my reward. that is why the context should be broadened and should contain some references to the fact that we screw up time and time again when we try to correct these ills of the past. host: michael, thank you very much. we will let our guest respond. guest: there is a lot in there. i would love to come back sometime and talk about the case for reparations for slavery and more importantly jim crow and affirmative action. that seems like that is almost a conversation we have to have some other time. if you're thinking about monuments, one of the things the caller thoughtfully and appropriately raised is what is does the contextualization look like. his sense of how the monuments would be contextualized is
probably pretty different from mine. i would like to see the contextualization focused on who put these monuments up, who do did not have a say in putting the monuments up. one thing that i think is salient is many of these monuments were put up in an era in which essentially the only people who could vote were white people, and in some instances , only some white men or essentially only white men could vote. we need contextualization of who put them up, who had a say, what they meant at the time, and how we now have a 360 degree view of what the confederacy was about. host: we will hear next from new york, republican line, scott. go ahead. caller: good morning and thank you for c-span. i have a question for your guest. do you believe that these white
supremacist nazi groups will continue to protest the taking down of the statues? i think some of them are getting sick and tired of feeling white guilt. you have black entertainment television, the naacp, black history month. everything is geared towards the black community. there is no -- if you feel pride for being white, somehow you are automatically labeled as being a racist. host: professor, go ahead. guest: this is a wide-ranging discussion. i think i have to say i respectfully disagree with your suggestion that everything in american culture is oriented towards african-americans. i don't want to bring into much of the discussion of reparations and affirmative action, but one
statistic, a third of african-american children live in poverty. about 10% of non-hispanic white children live in poverty. i think we can agree any children living in poverty is too many. what does that differential do? i think that has a lot to do with the legacy of jim crow more than slavery. jim crow and the incredibly limited educational, vocational, housing opportunities that were associated with state imposed segregation. trying to keep this conversation focused on monuments, i think your caller made a very important point that these monuments have in some cases become the rallying points for the neo-nazis, neo-confederates. that may very well be a reason for taking them down. the tragedy of charlottesville,
taking a step back, a young woman was murdered over a statue. if these are then going to be rallying points for white supremacists, i think that changes the balance and suggests maybe they should be taken down. they are not that historical relics of the past which are teaching us lessons. they become points of, sort of, of rally for white supremacists. i do think we need to be careful because it is not as though once we take the statues down, those ideas of white supremacy will go away. there may be other places those groups will be rallying, or they may be rallying at the base of the pedestal at the lee monument on monument avenue. that they are rallying points
has become a point for taking them down, but i am not sure that will solve all of the problems. host: stephanie from california is next. democrats line. caller: good morning. i do believe they should remove the statues. they should remove the statues just like they got rid of affirmative action. they said we are post-racial because we had a black president in office. look at the disrespect. the racism is more apparent now. everybody feels like they have a right to show that they are racist because there is no repercussions for the racism. the question is, the people walking in those rallies, are they in any positions of power? are they part of the police force?
where do these people come from? they did not just come from nowhere. there is still racism embedded in our economy, in our policies, and it should be addressed. affirmative action should be revisited. thank you. host: professor brophy. guest: thanks very much. i deeply respect your opinion that the statues should be taken down. i understand that. a very important point you make is the effects, the lingering effects of jim crow continues today. racism continues. i think that is why we should keep those monuments up. they are tangible evidence in prominent places in cities throughout the united states. they are evidence of the dark
days of jim crow segregation. i think that is precisely why we should leave them up. when we take them down, it is much easier to forget that there were once people in charge who did not want african-americans to vote, who wanted segregation in housing, schools, education, who celebrated the war to maintain slavery. i think you make an important case for continuing to keep up these tangible and important and significant reminders of the days of jim crow. host: the historian john meacham has an op ed in "the new york times" this morning, talking about statues on what you do for washington and jefferson? he says they were largely creatures of their time and yet each also believed in the transcended significance of the
was committed to the journey of a more perfect union. by definition, the confederate hierarchy fail that test. those who took up arms for the confederacy were attempting to stop the american odyssey. what do you think about that argument? guest: of course, i agree with that. i am against taking any of these statues down. i think you need to preserve the historical record. if you are going to take some of them down, i cannot imagine you would be taken down the washington and jefferson statues down. a lot professor at northwestern and i have an op-ed making a similar argument for the distinction between washington , who could've done more to end slavery. he did some and attempted to free some people via his will, could have and should have done more, but a very, very different
person from the confederate generals who took to the battlefield to preserve a republic based on slavery. i think those two things are very, very different. there are also questions about if you are going to start removing confederate statues, which ones do you remove? i would not imagine you would be removing them from cemeteries. if you're going to start removing any statues, we have this question about which ones. we are going to be removing ones that were designed to honor more than the common soldiers? i think there are some interesting questions and we will see those revisited. that ang i will say is number of southern states have monument preservation statutes -- north carolina, alabama, georgia, mississippi, virginia, they have statutes that prohibit
taking down monuments without either permission from the state legislature or the state historical commission. unc, my old institution, it looks as if the governor has just acquiesced to them taking down confederate monuments on the unc campus. host: professor, what are your concerns, or do you see the possibility of a slippery slope so to speak when it comes to the removal of statues and calls by some perhaps to go to washington and jefferson and others? guest: i am not worried about that. it seems to me it has taken so much to get to the point that we want to take any statues down that i think there is going to be a very easy line to draw between statues to heroes of the confederacy and washington, jefferson. lester spence mentioned the
statue to the chief justice of the author of the dreadful dred scott, one of the most vicious proslavery documents you'll ever see, and the decision was just taken down in baltimore. if you are going to start taking statues down, he would be someone you would put alongside some of the confederate generals. i am not a fan of taking them down. i think you contextualize them. i think a great counter monument would have been a monument to dred scott, the enslaved person who was claiming freedom and his case went to the u.s. supreme court to humbly ask for freedom. i think those kinds of counter monuments invite discussion. i think taking monuments down terminates discussion. host: our guest al brophy, his recent piece taking a look at this, called why the case for
the removal of confederate memorials is not so clear-cut. tallahassee, florida, republican line, dave, go ahead. caller: i disagree with him. i think they should be taken down. you talk about jefferson andyoud washington. that is a totally different subject. what they are talking about is celebrating and honoring people who were murdering people because they were property. celebrating rape, murder, kidnapping, extortion, it continues because we celebrate it. from the south. my family owned slaves. and i thinkud of it they ought to be taken down. when a kid has to walk by it and look at i think they ought to be taken down.
i think it is terrible when a kid has to walk by it and look at it, and they honor this guy who is celebrating racism, not just racism, slavery. i think it is for rent this. -- horrendous. i really do. host: we will let our guest response. guest: i respect that opinion. i think stephanie from california had a similar argument. i understand that. this is a decision that should be made by the local community. if they decide to take these monuments down, they should have the power to do that. i respect that decision. i think there is a significant danger that by taking them down we erase the memory of the era of jim crow. we run the risk of taking down these relics, and i think they are historical artifacts now. i don't see the lead monument -- richmond as an
celebration of the confederacy. i think it is a monument that in 1890 one that was put up, there were lots of people in richmond who had power the wanted to celebrate the confederacy. i understand people may feel differently. it is a moral and political decision. if the local community thinks this is doing more harm than good, they should be able to take those down. i am cautioning that there is a significant danger of historical forgetting by taking these down. host: georgia is next. michael, democrats line. caller: i would just like to say pedt the same people who clap when saddam hussein went down because he did that things in that country, they complained
going down inue our country, the people doing that in our country. i'm so embarrassed that our president would be quite the kkk to the protesters, but he would --er eqauate the keith,e will go next to florida, republican line. caller: good morning. welcome to america. caller, color -- president trump did not equate the moral equivalency between the two groups. he was equating the violence. both sides were violent. i had to say that. i don't understand how we got here. eight years ago we elected a black president twice. we have gone from being the greatest country and things like
no gay marriage by the president elected at the time to where we are now. things are moving so fast. a lot of these people were not offended until they were told they were offended. i think it is a slippery slope. your effort you contextualize these monuments. where i see america going is this conscious movement to divide this country. things are moving so fast. i don't understand it. why not go back all the way to the indians and give back the country to them? why not do reparations against japan and germany? when you spend all of your time trying to correct the past, you neglect the future. host: thank you. what about keith's statement
that he bore not offended until they were told to be offended? guest: that suggests a level of conspiracy that i don't generally see in american politics. going back to michael's point from georgia, i can understand the idea, seeing a confederate , it ist for many people a bitter pill to swallow. we need to balance the message these monuments may send to some people with the importance of historical memory. some years ago i was talking to a client, a case in a rural county in north carolina, and i said i have never been in this courthouse before, tell me what the atmosphere will be like. he said there is a confederate monument out front. that monument told her she was
not going to get justice there that is probably not a message we want to be sending to litigants who go to courthouses who seek equal treatment and justice. we need to balance these considerations. to go back to michael's comment from georgia, people celebrated taking down the saddam hussein monuments in 2003 in iraq. tore down the statue of george the third at the beginning of the revolution. those monuments were serving temporary political purposes. i see these monuments as historical relics. it may be that they are rallying points for was from, and the case may be much stronger for taking them down. host: what are you looking for specifically as far as the future of whether monuments stay
or go or the extent to what monuments stay or go? guest: it is really interesting. this is yet another moment on the 2016 election. i have no idea what is coming next. things are just moving so quickly. near-term, what we will see is a lot more monuments coming down on college campuses and cities around the united states. i suspect we will begin to drop line, monuments museums, then i hope we will get some other counter monuments. i hope we will see other monuments going up. more important than taking something down or leaving it up is the discussion of our nation's past and how the passes
connected to the present -- the past is connected to the present. host: our guest, al brophy of the university of alabama school of law. how did you become interested in this topic? guest: it is really interesting. i write largely on race in american legal history. i work on proslavery thought in the southern academy and judiciary. i am interested in how people fo ught at the time and how we have remember that -- remembered that, monuments in cemeteries, gettysburg, and how we remember the war north and south. i always enjoy when i go to courthouses in t
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jenna johnson is in phoenix and she tweeted photos of barricades of the place of the presidents rally tonight. local officials are expecting protests. >> every year we as members of congress what they are leading. here's a look at some of the books that paul ryan has on his summer list. he is reading "washington alliance here from an in-depth look at the first president of the united states. also on his list, strong fathers, strong daughters." highlighting the them of the father daughter relationship. >> send us your summer reading list by twitter at book tv or instagram, at book underscore tv , or post it to our facebook page, facebook.com/book tv.
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