We do not need “a conversation” about Confederate monuments in San Antonio. Observation will do. The Confederacy mounted an armed insurrection against the United States of America to defend slavery and the racist ideology underpinning it. Slavery, racism, and their defense or glorification are abominable to human dignity, earthly justice, and divine will.
Therefore, monuments to the Confederacy or those who fought on its behalf should be removed immediately. Baltimore provides just one recent example of what decisive leadership looks like; the city removed its monuments on Aug. 16 after having decided to do so on Aug. 15.
By contrast, San Antonio’s leadership can only be described as feckless. On July 25, two City Council members formally proposed creating a committee of an unspecified number of people to determine what to do with the Confederate monument in Travis Park. If the request is successful, the committee will be formed, hold hearings, and make recommendations, which will then require further procedure for the City to implement. Meanwhile, the Confederate monument will continue to stand in a public park with the implicit imprimatur of our government, making San Antonio look weak and indecisive.
So what would the proposed committee, with all its inherent delays, really accomplish?
First, by creating new appointments to fill, the committee would provide yet another opportunity for political patronage in a city already rife with it. Second, ??by delegating ?the Confederate monument decision to a ?committee, politicians ?can privately disclaim responsibility for the outcome and appease the “many sides” President Donald Trump spoke of with outrageous even-handedness after Charlottesville’s deadly rallies. These are not public benefits. They are political maneuvers. Worse, these maneuvers put San Antonians at risk by giving hatemongers more time to divide the community and create public safety problems at Travis Park.
By contrast, a local truth-and-reconciliation commission would be a good way to begin to address the legacies of both slavery and Tejano displacement in San Antonio. Unfortunately, that is not what was proposed on July 25. What was proposed was more unfathomable delay in a matter that is both operationally discrete and morally clear. We deserve better. If sister cities in the heart of the old Confederacy can act with efficiency and dispatch, so can we, and that means that those with the power to direct government action should do the right and simple thing now.
Therefore, as a resident of District 1, where San Antonio’s Confederate monument
stands, and as a San Antonio native who knows our city to be fully capable of rising to the occasion, I urge Mayor Ron Nirenberg to place on the next full City Council meeting agenda a new and better proposal: to direct the City to immediately remove the Confederate monument from Travis Park to a secure storage facility. There, it can be held until the proposed committee decides its ultimate fate.
But immediate removal is the only morally acceptable course of action in our current national moment. Anything less would be to disappoint the demands of justice and succumb to the corrupting influence of political calculation.