Replacing Hate with Love
People upset by the removal of Confederate or racist statues think of it as an effort to change history. It is really an effort to re-contextualize history. The statues are not history in and of themselves; they are a familiar but dark expression of history, written by white supremacists. That history obfuscates the truth of what happened in our past, glorifying the proponents of hate. This moment in history calls out for revision.
The placement of the statue of John C. Calhoun, in Charleston’s city center, in Marion Square, for over a hundred years, has stood as a symbol and constant reminder of centuries of hate and inequality. Calhoun was notorious for his unflinching support of the institution of slavery. That part of our history is not going anywhere. The statue’s removal yesterday is also of great historically significance. And what replaces it will also become a part of our history.
So here’s a crazy idea. While we’re amending the white supremacy bias, as expressed in public artwork, created mostly during the Jim Crow era, why don’t we create a new public art initiative, commissioning new works which depict and celebrate these important historical revisions?
The tall base of the structure is all that remains of the Calhoun legacy. Now, there is one question looming. What do we put in the statue’s place? There are many African Americans who left an impact on the community, such as Septima Poinsette Clark, Esau Jenkins, Robert Smalls or Denmark Vesey.
Here’s what I propose: a monument in bronze memorializing the victims of the Mother Emanuel massacre, five years ago and a week before the removal of the Calhoun statue. I suggest creating nine naturalistic doves in bronze, dancing around and above the tall pedestal, defying gravity (similar to the work of Grainger McKoy), defying history and defying hate, in the spirit of the brilliant iconic graphic, “We Shall Overcome” by Gil Shuler.