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RayaHope's avatar

Should we rewrite history by eliminating symbols that some find offensive?

Asked by RayaHope (5118points) 2 weeks ago

Like statues and flags and some books that reference racist terms etc. Is this a slippery slope we may not come back from?

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45 Answers

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JLeslie's avatar

Rewrite history? No. What exactly do you mean by that? Rewrite the history books?

JLoon's avatar

No. But we should use facts and reason to show clearly how those symbols were created and used by people with false views, and harmful agendas.

flutherother's avatar

Rewriting history is fine as long as it is rewritten by historians. I don’t want politicians tampering with history or pulling down statues to please the mob.

Demosthenes's avatar

First off, I don’t think there’s much of a “should” here, especially when it comes to renaming buildings or removing statues. These are things that residents of a community in which these buildings and statues stand should decide collectively. And if they decide they don’t want to rename or remove anything, that is fine. But if they do decide to do so, I also do not think there is any imperative to keep these symbols around. Removing a statue or changing the name of a building isn’t rewriting or denying history. Statues are erected and buildings are named to honor someone. It’s perfectly okay to decide that a person doesn’t need to be honored. It does not mean we stop learning about them; if anything often the reverse is true: we learned more about them and decided we no longer wish to honor them.

As far as removing books that reference racist terms, I think you all know my position on book banning and censorship and I am just as resolute and uncompromising here: no. That said, it doesn’t hurt to put books that do so in context and (in an educational setting) let students know why the terms are there and understand the historical period their usage reflects.

chyna's avatar

No. You can’t rewrite history, but it can be presented in a way that shows how things should change to be inclusive of everyone.

RayaHope's avatar

I figured when “they” remove a statue of someone that is now regarded as racist or detrimental to society it is the same as rewriting history. The Confederate flag is another example, so many are offended by it that many want it banned or removed. By doing so you are effectively changing history. I’m not saying I am for this but it does happen. I am also against banning books as I said before. I do agree with @JLoon 100%

RocketGuy's avatar

“It belongs in a museum!” for people to learn from.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

There are no statues in Germany of Hitler . . . . enough is enough !

General Lee was a traitor, there in no good reason to be honored with statues and Armed Forces bases names.

Remember the the history.

Forever_Free's avatar

What’s done is done.
History will form the future.

History Repeating ~The Propeller Heads with Shirley Bassey

Irukandji's avatar

“I figured when ‘they’ remove a statue of someone that is now regarded as racist or detrimental to society it is the same as rewriting history.”

How? If a statue of Jefferson Davis is removed, does it change the fact that he was the president of the Confederate States? Does it remove his name from the history books or any other document recording his life? Because the statue itself is not history. It is an attempt to frame history in a particular way (e.g., “Jefferson Davis was a tragic hero who just wanted to beat his slaves in peace with Abraham Lincoln getting in the way”). Also, most of these statues are relocated to museums. If you’re really interested in whatever history they provide, you can still go see them.

“The Confederate flag is another example, so many are offended by it that many want it banned or removed. By doing so you are effectively changing history.”

Again, how? If the Confederate flag is banned, which historical events are retroactively erased? Because that’s what changing history means: altering the actual events that occurred. And if banning a symbol could retroactively change history, wouldn’t it be worth figuring out which events would be erased? Because I think it would pretty great if we could somehow retroactively prevent things like slavery and genocide.

RayaHope's avatar

@Irukandji Hi, I haven’t seen you here before. My question must have drawn you out of hiding (that’s a joke) I just thought that if you eliminate things from history you are rewriting it. Take things from the public eye and they will forget about it and sooner or later no one will ever write or read about them.

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WhyNow's avatar

I think I understand and agree with your premise. If by eliminating you mean
forgetting about bad parts of history, how could we learn to become better.
BUT what is truly offensive should only be displayed in museums and not in public.

kritiper's avatar

No. History is history. Leave it alone.

kritiper's avatar

@Irukandji Some of which you speak of is taken too literally. For example, one can ban the Confederate flag with out banning it’s history. The same as a figure from history versus the statue of that individual.

seawulf575's avatar

Part of the consideration for the question is the concept that someone might be offended. You cannot say or do anything without someone being offended. You will never please everyone. If we start down the rabbit hole of changing things because someone gets offended then it becomes extremely divisive….more divisive than some stupid statue or name on a building. And oftentimes when things like that are changed, you find out later that there were things about the names/statues you decided to put up instead that are offensive. Take Martin Luther King Jr. I respect the hell out of the guy for trying to show that blacks are humans and deserve respect without being militant about it. However he cheated on his wife, beat his kids, etc. Not necessarily the kind of guy you would want to invite over if he lived next door. Someone could easily be offended by these behaviors and take umbrage with honoring him.

canidmajor's avatar

@RayaHope I recommend you read this article, and seriously look at the chart in there, to understand that the vast majority of such statues (honoring the major players of the Confederacy) were erected at specific times during which there major steps being taken to achieve civil rights. Note the dramatic upsurge in the 1960s. They are specifically monuments to White Supremacy.

Statues don’t teach history. Flags promoting ideals of oppression don’t teach history. Celebrating persons who hurt and enslaved others doesn’t teach history.

Read about history to learn history. A cloth symbol of fascism, or the portrait or statue of a tyrant gives no context.

Removing these things does not erase history, it serves to stop the celebration of the atrocities perpetrated on people.

https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544266880/confederate-statues-were-built-to-further-a-white-supremacist-future

ETA The banning of certain books is happening by the very people who are pushing the agenda to keep the flags and statues.

RocketGuy's avatar

@canidmajor – that’s where moving them to museums comes in. It takes the celebratory nature out, while giving an opportunity to describe the context for learning the real history behind them. The younger generations need to know these things so they don’t make the same mistakes.

ragingloli's avatar

Holocaust denial, Nazi symbols and creeds, as well as the Hitler salute, have been illegal in Germany for a very long time.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli What about your history book and museums? Aren’t there still photos of Hitler and the swastika?

ragingloli's avatar

@JLeslie
The qualifier is that their use in a glorifying context is illegal. Meaning you can not walk around in public with a Swastika or SS tattoo or flag, and shout Sieg Heil while doing the salute.

SABOTEUR's avatar

That’s already been done.

The REAL question is should we rewrite history by eliminating symbols MY culture cherishes that people find offensive.

Smashley's avatar

Symbols aren’t history. History is history. Symbols symbolize. If a symbol symbolizes an idea that has become unconscionable, it should have its symbolic power removed. I’m not in favor of destroying historical artifacts, but they can be recontextualized in a museum, rather than flying above the state capitol.

RocketGuy's avatar

@SABOTEUR – what exactly does your culture cherish? Is it mint julips on a veranda and chats on a warm summer day, or is it subjugation of some folks and extermination of others?

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SABOTEUR's avatar

@RocketGuy That’s the sad thing…most of us don’t know where we came from or what our culture is since we adapted to the culture of the people that enslaved us.

See THIS:

https://youtu.be/WD8mWq0Hdcw

RayaHope's avatar

@SABOTEUR Everyone SHOULD watch this video! We need a BETTER history. Thank you very much for this! (((HUGS)))

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RocketGuy's avatar

@SABOTEUR – that guy is good! I’ve seen a few of his videos. We need to see the bad and get rid of it, then see the good and keep it.

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Smashley's avatar

To a certain degree, you are right though. Removing statues of rebel generals and slavers will change public perception, and thus, history, if you will. Not actual history, but it will affect the way history is understood. This IS the point, though not many will say it. “Rewriting history” is an inflammatory way to put it, but creating and destroying symbols had always been a method of population control. On a macro scale, you can have an effect on the way people think.

While this has been a tool, weaponized by autocrats, it can also be the tool of a republic, used to encourage things the people agree should be encouraged. Most countries, if not all, engage in some amount of propaganda. It’s not even always a bad thing and can promote national unity. In Canada they called it “Heritage Minutes.”

Rewriting history? It’s writing the future. Sounds sinister, but better done by a representative democracy than the alternatives. I’m cool with it in concept. That the statues are of shitheels fighting for slavery makes me cool with it specifically.

WhyNow's avatar

It used to said “History is written by the victors.” Now we can say “History is written
by a woke mob.”

Invent a few pithy bromides like “the civil war was not about slavery” which, after reading
hundreds of pages I find to be a lie. But now accepted as facts.

Why do this? In this particular case this is done to perpetuate the victim class. Dems
cynically do this to keep whole groups of peoples living forever on the democrat
plantation… “You need us to advance in life”

The narrative is enforced by BLM and antifa and by race hucksters like Ibrim X Kendi
who are getting very wealthy peddling this bullshit.

They believe it’s important to force down our throat now because along comes trump
and shows that these groups don’t have to remain victims to succeed.

RayaHope's avatar

@Smashley Thank God YOU see what I am trying to say! “Rewriting history” in the minds of the people in the present and future is exactly what I mean. History happens and we can’t change that BUT if peoples perception going forward is changed by eliminating symbols that in a way IS changing history.

Smashley's avatar

@RayaHope – yup, but try to think of it as a normal tool of statecraft than as an entirely good or bad thing.

Forever_Free's avatar

No. You must remember History and NEVER FORGET the past. Even the atrocities.
This is how we learn from the past ion hopes to never repeat those atrocities.

LostInParadise's avatar

Having a statue in a public square is an honor. It is a symbol of what people should aspire to. Having statues of Confederate soldiers sends a message about the nobility of fighting for slavery, and should be replaced. The old statues can be placed in museums.

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ragingloli's avatar

I wonder how those confederate statue worshippers feel about the Iraqis tearing down their Saddam statues after his death, or all the former eastern bloc countries toppling their Stalin and Lenin statues after the fall of the Soviet Union. I am sure they are equally upset over those “erasures of history”

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