BATISTE: This Is How 99.9% Of Monument Supporters Feel

 

Stephanie Grace of the Advocate penned a column recently attacking monument supporters.  Grace’s headline read “It’s time for everyone to stand up.”

A monument supporter typed out an outstanding letter to the editor to represent the feelings and thoughts of the monument supporters who have been steamrolled and intimidated relentlessly by the Mayor and media of New Orleans.  Ms. Grace’s Fake News column is a perfect example of why American people not only don’t trust the news media, but they don’t like them.

A monument supporter (and now hero of the cause!) submitted a condensed version of the below to The Advocate.  But go figure, even shortened to fit their guidelines, the Advocate didn’t publish a Letter To The Editor exposing the newspaper and its anti-preservation agenda.

Maybe you haven’t publicly heard from more people in favor of taking the monuments down, because more people are against monument removal than you and the Mayor will accept. What you should really be curious about is why the people who are interested in protecting the cultural authenticity of New Orleans’ landscape aren’t speaking out more in public. Maybe it’s because in every monument article, The Advocate and the Times-Picayune include phrases like “white supremacy” and “Jim Crow era” about a dozen times, leading to the conclusion that if someone even remotely supports monument preservation they are likely a Klan member. Maybe it’s because the local media and the Mayor’s office have engaged in a most unfortunate disinformation campaign about the history and intent of the monuments. Maybe it’s because our Mayor is generally thought to be a stubborn and vindictive person. The local news source The Lens once did a major story about people who simply disagreed with Mitch Landrieu and later felt the power of his wrath because of it. The article was titled “Enemy for Life.”

Neither the local media nor the Mayor have ever acknowledged the viewpoint of 99.9% of local monument supporters: We want the monuments to stand because of their historic authenticity. New Orleans is a historically authentic city. People are drawn here because they crave what cities elsewhere generally lack—authenticity. Take away New Orleans’ authenticity and you take away one of its most valuable resources that cannot be replenished. These monuments are non-renewable, cultural resources that should be protected, not endangered. Native New Orleanians become livid if their favorite poboy shop of forty years is sold and the new owner changes the kind of pickle slices used. And you’re wondering why we’re up in arms about 130 year old landmarks?

From the start, the process to remove the monuments has been a joke, but the media sat on their hands. Are you so naive to think that the various city commissions that are packed with mayoral appointees were not in advanced agreement to support removal? Are you so naive to think that the City Council vote wasn’t accounted for long before the vote was held? The Mayor demanded a unanimous vote from the Council Members! Why did the merits of all four monuments have to be discussed as one, other than for the Liberty monument to weigh the others down? And how was Landrieu allowed to skirt the responsibility of providing the full plan of where the monuments would go after removal and what exactly would take their place? Now the media is mildly questioning the process of removal, just in time to be too-little-too late.

Landrieu, and you as well, are now no longer content to aggressively condemn people who are vocal in their opposition to removal. Both you and Landrieu now condemn those who aren’t vocally in SUPPORT of monument removal. Think about that for a minute. You say, “They have to get how the monuments’ presence undermines New Orleans’ image as a tolerant, modern city that celebrates its diversity.” Again, you are staking the claim that if you are a staunch historic preservationist with regard to these monuments, you are an intolerant, antiquated bigot. However, it is you and Landrieu who are intolerant of any view other than your own. So much so that if there are prominent individuals that are not enthusiastically, vocally in support of Landrieu’s view, shame on them and call them out! You and the Mayor even question why these prominent people aren’t rushing to help the Mayor finish off this mess that he started.

Which brings us to the intimidation factor. It is right to bring up the wrongness of any sort of physical intimidation. But the lawful boycotting of businesses involved in the monument removal process is a symptom of a public that feels shut out from what’s happening to their beloved city by a Mayor that is, so far, too hard headed and intolerant to listen. Individuals would be more vocal in their opposition to monument removal if they weren’t so fearful of institutional payback from the Mayor as well as the media. A Mayor and a media that begins and ends the discussion with: if you want the monuments up you are a white supremacist.

It is wrong to convey the position that if you are for the monuments you are a racist. That devalues the term “racist.” We are not talking about erecting a statue to Robert E. Lee today de novo. We want to preserve what is here. You and the Mayor have trotted out time and time again the overly simplistic canard that these monuments were established as a symbol of white supremacy, a chapel to the Lost Cause, a beacon to all with blue eyes, etc., etc. Ironically, the Mayor and the media have done more to associate the monuments with white supremacy than any other entities. Yet neither the Mayor nor you have provided any primary source proof of the claim.  Spare me any vague, out of context half-sentences that come from very lengthy dedication speeches. And any discussion of Liberty Monument at this point is moot. (By the way, I promise you if you put ten New Orleanians in a room and ask them what the Liberty monument was specifically about, you’d get eleven different answers.)  Monuments go up after a war, especially on the losing side, to heal wounds and divisions. People from the North and South attended the solemn dedications of the remaining three monuments. Davis, Lee and Beauregard were all considered as unifiers after the war.  Now Landrieu is literally and figuratively ripping away that generational salve.

The Mayor still has the power to bring about that healing he promised, but, ironically and poetically, the only way for that to happen is for his desire for healing to outweigh his desire to “win.” Will Landrieu be a man for himself or for his city? Sadly, no one is optimistic.

If Stephanie Grace wants everyone to speak up, it’s not that she will not want to hear it, Grace will not let herself hear it.  (Of course, you can always try by flooding her inbox and Twitter with this via: [email protected], @stephgracela.) At the time Grace wrote her column, local businessman Frank Stewart was working on his now famous two page “Open Letter to Mitch – Shame On You!”

Monument supporters are trying to speak out—some have to pay to put ads in the paper, others get ignored by the same paper and have respond in alternative methods.

Where is everyone, Ms. Grace? Frank Stewart is here and many stand with Frank.  This man is here and he says it all.  He hits points monument supporters think but can’t say.  He illustrates a side that has been represented by a few publicly, yet even those few are labeled evil racist nazi klansman. This man is a hero and his words should be read by all.

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