Historical monuments do matter. Instead of tearing down memorials to controversial figures, more important is to look history in the eye and reflect on our awkward relationship to it. Activists  are deluding themselves if they think that removing a statue will make any difference to inequalities of race, class or gender. Rather than insisting that statues should come down, they need to engage in the politics needed to bring about real change. The act of understanding history relies on recognising how the past informs the present, and not editing out parts we don’t like. Which in turn means that the individuals and events of the past are legitimate parts of the narrative and fabric of history. Allowing these monuments to stand isn’t to legitimate the views of 19th century slave holders or imperialists or Confederate Generals, but rather, it is part of the “challenge of history” to debate the moral questions the monuments may present, and confront them head-on. In the end, you cannot rewrite history, but you can attempt to right wrongs and do things better. The only way we can accomplish that is by talking about it.

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