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Hate Free Decatur says sign by Confederate monument is a victory, but there’s more work to do

Decatur

Hate Free Decatur says sign by Confederate monument is a victory, but there’s more work to do

The county placed this marker near the Confederate monument in the Decatur Square. Photo by Anne Clarke.
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Hate Free Decatur, a local advocacy group that wants a Confederate monument in the Decatur Square removed, says a sign noting the monument’s racist history is a “victory.”

But the group says there’s still more work to be done and that its ultimate goal is the monument’s removal.

“Make no mistake, the erection of this marker is a victory,” Hate Free Decatur said after the county erected the sign near the monument.  “It would not have happened without all of the community support, activism, and organizing taking place over the past two years. And yet, it is not enough. Conversation is a vehicle, not the destination. Other communities found the political will to remove these monuments; if we want the same in our community, we must work to elect political leaders with vision and the will to accomplish the wide-scale change we need. We look forward to the day when the monument is gone, and only the marker remains.”

The monument is located by the old DeKalb County courthouse and was constructed in 1908. It is widely seen as a symbol of the Jim Crow era south, a not-so subtle message to black residents who would question the status quo.

County leaders have tried — and failed — to remove the monument. Georgia law prohibits removing these monuments, but an attorney for DeKalb County believes the law allows for the monument to be moved as long as it isn’t obscured. That hasn’t budged the monument one inch. A proposal to put the monument in the Decatur Cemetery was quickly nixed. Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain was also identified as a place to send the monument, but that didn’t come to pass either.

The county can’t move the monument, but decided to do the next best thing: putting a sign near it pointing out the monument is racist. The statement was was written by a group of historians from Agnes Scott, Emory, GSU, Kennesaw State and the DeKalb History Center.

Hate Free Decatur said, “Adding context is an important step in the process, but it does not balance out the wrongs of slavery celebrated in the monument, or the continued wrong of allowing the monument to remain in a central place of honor. We should all call out racism when we see it — but we must also work to end that racism in ourselves and our community. We appreciate the County adding the marker — but regret that even telling the historical facts surrounding the situation is a radical act.”

Here is the group’s full statement:

Hate Free Decatur Statement on Historical Marker; Hosting October 14 Walking Tour & Panel Discussion

DeKalb County unveiled a historical marker that gives context to the Confederate monument which sullies Decatur square. In addition to pointing to preservation of slavery as the key cause of the Civil War and detailing the history of the Decatur monument’s erection, the marker rightfully calls out that monument as a symbol of white supremacy, placed in front of the courthouse to intimidate Black people of DeKalb County.

The marker and the words upon it came after two years of work by Hate Free Decatur and the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights. Our groups marched in the street led by our youth, wrote emails and made phone calls, and got resolutions passed by the City of Decatur and DeKalb County in favor of removal. We convened a panel of historians for a community discussion, several of whom contributed to the words on the marker. We worked to find an alternate location for the monument when the County was passive, reached out to the interfaith community in an attempt to use the monument as a vehicle for the critical education work that needs to be done on our terms, and went to the Capitol to support legislation by Representative Renitta Shannon and Senator Elena Parent that would remove these monuments once and for all. It was only at the end of this process that the state law was changed to deny local communities their right to self-determination, foreclosing all legal possibility of removing the monument entirely. The end result was two years that the County could have boldly taken action but chose not to.

Adding context is an important step in the process, but it does not balance out the wrongs of slavery celebrated in the monument, or the continued wrong of allowing the monument to remain in a central place of honor. We should all call out racism when we see it — but we must also work to end that racism in ourselves and our community. We appreciate the County adding the marker — but regret that even telling the historical facts surrounding the situation is a radical act.

Make no mistake, the erection of this marker is a victory. It would not have happened without all of the community support, activism, and organizing taking place over the past two years. And yet, it is not enough. Conversation is a vehicle, not the destination. Other communities found the political will to remove these monuments; if we want the same in our community, we must work to elect political leaders with vision and the will to accomplish the wide-scale change we need. We look forward to the day when the monument is gone, and only the marker remains.

In celebration of our community success and the work still to be done, we will be hosting a Walking Tour and Panel Discussion on Monday, October 14, 2019 at 6pm. Join us as we gather at the Decatur Confederate monument, then participate along a guided tour to the Ebster Recreation Center. There we will host a discussion about the continued systems of white supremacy in our society and ways we can work together to bring needed change to Decatur.

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