Confederate symbols

Several symbols to the confederacy ares scattered across the University of Georgia's North to central campus. These include the monument downtown near the university Arch, a sundial on North Campus honoring Robert Toombs, who served as secretary of state for the Confederacy, and the memorial for fallen soldiers outside the Zell B. Miller Learning Center includes a list of names, many of which were soldiers fighting for the Confederacy. 

Censorship is a dirty word in a country where the liberty to say and print what we want is the very lifeblood of not just our government and legal system, but our lives.

On Jan. 14, the Houston Independent School District board voted to rename four schools bearing the names of known Confederate figures. One of those schools bore a name familiar to University of Georgia students: Henry W. Grady — the very man after whom our college of journalism is named.

Grady helped rebuild the South after the Civil War, employing his considerable powers of both written and spoken word to encourage the unification of a fire-scorched country, and that is something to be proud of. 

However, he was also a former Confederate and white supremacist.  

There has been a movement to remove Confederate symbols, such as the very name Grady, from campuses and government buildings. The University of Texas at Austin voted to remove a statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the center of its campus. In October, the University of Mississippi removed the state flag, one that contains a restyled confederate flag, from the center of campus. 

Being politically correct is the trend of today — a trend to which I personally subscribe. Choosing to cull your speech and conceptions in order to be more sensitive to the struggles of others, those relating to their backgrounds, beliefs and cultures, is not something to fight against. If I can avoid making someone feel uncomfortable or upset, I will. That is who I am.

However, the question of what exactly constitutes political incorrectness, and what is simply fact, is now being addressed. History is fact. A list of happenings to which people then attribute their own opinions and feelings. Grady helped unify the New South with one hand and discriminated against African Americans with the other. These are issues we have to face, every ugly truth, in order to know the history of our nation and understand the current cultural conflicts that face American society.  

So can we censor our past? No, no more than we can rewrite it. 

But we can control our present and our future. We can monitor our words, tear down our glorifying monuments and face the future with a fresh perspective. We can choose this while acknowledging the fact that it is our choice, and that is what gives that choice power. Censoring the past does no one any service, nor does shutting the mouths of those who would keep Confederate symbols in government buildings. That infringes on the very fabric of our nation. 

The question then remains as to what symbols of historical fact are glorification and what is not. It is our choice, as a college and a culture, as to what that is. We must hear all the dissenting voices, all the unpopular opinions, and then choose both for ourselves and as a collective what we can do to balance the facts of history with the emotions and opinions of our present.  

— Shelby Masters is the Opinion editor at The Red & Black

Opinions expressed in The Red & Black are the opinions of the writers and not necessarily those of The Red & Black Publishing Co., Inc. Contact the editorial staff with other viewpoints at opinions@randb.com.

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