Hillsdale College professors from various academic fields voiced their opinion on the removal of Confederate soldiers statues across America in the aftermath of the violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12.
“I think it’s lamentable that they’re removing those statues,” Michael Jordan, professor of English, said. “Every hero has got some kind of flaw or every hero has embraced something that is not ideal and perfect and pure. Where would it stop, is another thing.”
A native of North Carolina, Jordan gave an example from his “neck of the woods,” as he put it.
“There’s now discussion about removing the monument to Zebulon B. Vance simply because he was the governor in North Carolina during the Civil War,” he said.
Kevin Slack, associate professor of politics, said whether these monuments are inspiring.
“Do they truly give us roots — a continuity with our past, not just mindless collecting?” he said in an email. “Or do we need to raze them as hostile to living?”
Slack said as a person who has taught American history, he enjoys visiting monuments to the Confederacy but has little personal identity in them.
“Ultimately, history is for the living, not the dead, and this is largely a battle for Southerners, whose votes will determine the monuments’ fate,” said Slack.
Adam Carrington, associate professor of politics, also weighed in.
“I would say that I understand the question of the degree to which we should celebrate the Confederacy because of the history of slavery, because of the history of succession, if you believe that it’s in tension with, if not in contradiction to, the american founding,” Carrington said.
He thought most of the critique of the Confederate monuments today “is a lot deeper and wider” than just the history of slavery and secession.
“They’re critiquing America itself and basically using this as a statement of rejecting who we are and who we’ve been,” said Carrington. “And I think that’s a much broader critique that is much, much harder to be sympathetic to, especially to those who are conservative.”
Carrington also wondered: “Are those statues being taken down because of something that isn’t in accord with our founding principles? Or is it being taken down because we want to also reject Washington, Lincoln?”
He thought that Hillsdale’s founders and those to whom the college’s Union soldier statue is dedicated might have had “a serious problem with statues to Jefferson Davis” because Hillsdale was “a hotbed of anti-slavery sentiment.” However, Carrington said their objection would be based on America’s founding values.
“I think a lot of people [removing Confederate monuments] today would reject that and claim that even Hillsdale, and what they were doing, was a part of a broad, evil, despicable claim,” said Carrington.
Slack also said that if these monuments to Confederate soldiers and leaders are going to be taken down, the appropriate method to do so is through the municipal, county, state, and federal laws, “and not out of intimidation from groups advocating for either side.”
“Indeed, until they are removed, these statues are the property of their respective communities, and they ought to be protected,” Slack said.