After avowed White supremacist and Confederate zealot Dylan Roof murdered nine Black parishioners of the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina during a prayer service on June 17, 2015, the debate over the Confederate flag and other Confederate imagery was re-ignited.

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Sean Yoes

Shortly after the massacre of the Charleston Nine, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake assembled the Special Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments. The group held its first meeting September 17, 2015, 90 days after the Charleston tragedy.

After months of consideration, public hearings, which included testimony from history scholars, the Commission came up with this conclusion: “One hundred years ago, the City of Baltimore was one of the many jurisdictions that adopted laws and policies that re-established white supremacy and racial segregation. This racist vision was implemented innumerable ways…The monuments studied by this Commission were yet another tool used to glorify white supremacy and that vision is indefensible today,” the group stated in its final report.

The Commission recommended two of the statues be removed; the Lee-Jackson monument in Wyman Park and the Roger B. Taney monument in Mt. Vernon (The Taney monument is not specifically a Confederate monument, but Taney, who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1836-1864, was the architect of the Dred Scott decision, which affirmed the racist view of Blacks as less than human and reinforced the rationalization of the institution of slavery). And they believe the other two monuments, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument and the Confederate Women’s Monument need to provide historical context.

According to University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson, a member of the commission, the group’s findings were delivered to the mayor in January of 2016. However, City Hall has not made a decision on the recommendations…yet (more on that later).

The Commission’s findings go into fascinating detail about the lengths to which Confederate sympathizers attempted to re-imagine the Civil War narrative and the events (including the institution of slavery) that led up to it. Notably, the participation of Union troops in Maryland outnumbered Confederate soldiers almost three to one, yet, there is only one Union monument in Baltimore City compared to four Confederate monuments. And those who led the effort to erect those monuments in Baltimore seemed hell bent (literally) on perpetuating the fallacy of White supremacy.

Speaking of White supremacy…

Last November in this column, I wrote about a statue of a pregnant Black woman, with her golden fist raised to the sky, which was erected in front of the Lee-Jackson monument in protest of the 21st century perpetuation of White supremacy symbolized by the Confederate monuments dispersed around this majority Black city. After she was placed in front of Lee-Jackson, last November I wrote:

Less than a day later she was unceremoniously removed by Baltimore police and Baltimore City park rangers and relocated to an out of the way storage facility in Druid Hill Park. And less than a day after that, she was taken to the Copycat Building, an artist enclave near Midtown.

That’s when the White supremacist attitudes for which she was crafted to confront manifested in the actions of someone who scrawled, “nigger,” and “white power,” on her Black body.

Almost a year since that protest statue was defaced with racist graffiti, to my knowledge the person who did it hasn’t been caught and nobody has been charged with what amounts to a hate crime.

I’m not quite sure why Mayor Rawlings-Blake hasn’t acted upon the recommendations of the Commission she charged to come up with a plan for Baltimore’s Confederate monuments. But, Gibson suggested I, “shouldn’t be so hard on the mayor,” during the First Edition radio show September 19. Gibson said that although the Commission’s recommendations were delivered to City Hall in January, the Mayor’s office was not in “official” receipt of them until months later.

Beyond the decision of the Commission he was a part of, to remove two monuments and keep the other two, I asked Gibson what he would do if the decision was solely his. His reply was succinct.

“I would get rid of all four of them.”

Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor