An Open Letter to White Statues From Black America

A Confederate monument featuring an 8-foot statue of a Confederate soldier  in Lee Park in Pensacola, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Confederate monument featuring an 8-foot statue of a Confederate soldier in Lee Park in Pensacola, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Dear Statues,

We know there’s been a lot of back and forth about our people’s efforts to eliminate your people from the planet, and instead of having you hear it secondhand, we thought we’d pen this open letter so you could get it straight from the source.


It’s not that we don’t trust the filter of the American media, but we have noticed that they have a penchant for twisting our words and motives into sentiments that give white people the heebie-jeebies, and even though we aren’t sure that your people are capable of either heebies or jeebies, or that you even consider yourselves “people,” we wanted to eliminate the possibility of any misunderstanding.

OK, we admit it—we don’t trust the American media.

Anyway, we are sure you’ve heard the hullabaloo about our distaste for your people. It started with statues of Confederate monuments but somehow morphed into black people wanting every piece of marble and stone tossed into the deepest volcano.

Let me explain to you how this all started: The origin has many roots, but it blew up when pro-Confederate groups (I know you don’t have a working mouth or tongue, but it’s pronounced “wyt suh prem uh sists”) objected to the removal of the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place in New Orleans. Like most Confederate statues, the monument was a tribute to white people’s 1874 losing effort when they took up arms to try to prevent black people from voting. If you look really close, you can still see the original inscription, which reads:

[Democrats] McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpet-bag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored). United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.

Now, what right-minded black citizen of New Orleans would like to have his or her tax dollars go toward maintaining that?

Then they tried to bamboozle us into believing that the statue of Jefferson Davis wasn’t a tribute to white supremacy. They tried it, even though he turned traitor and took up arms against his own country to create his own nation that was exactly like the one he committed treason against, except the whole slave thing. Even though he is quoted as saying, “We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.”


So yeah, we saw a statue celebrating Davis as a little off-putting, as we did the monument to P.G.T. Beauregard, who helped create the Confederate flag along with William Thompson, who said this:

As a people we are fighting to maintain the heavenly ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause. Such a flag would be a suitable emblem of our young confederacy, and sustained by the brave hearts and strong arms of the south, it would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.


I hope you can see why we object to these Confederate statues. I know the conservative media have turned our distaste for monuments to white supremacy into a hate for all statues by using the straw man of the “slippery slope argument.” First they said we wanted to erase history—as if the only way to learn about the past is by seeing stone replicas of it. Hell, they just made a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. the day before yesterday, and yet somehow we were already aware of his existence.

Then they started saying that we wanted to eliminate statues of every slaveholder, which is just not true. Now some politician is saying he’s worried about us wanting to tear down the monument to 9/11. I have no idea where that idea came from, but you know that white people are prone to hyperbole. They can’t help it. It’s like they’re always playing a game of perpetual, historical telephone.


Do you remember how they took a positive affirmation about self-worth and turned “Black Lives Matter” into a terrorist group that wants to kill all police officers? Or how they turned a war about upholding slavery into some jumbled cacophony of bullshit about states’ rights and Southern tradition? Well, that’s what they are trying to do with this statue thing.

We’d just like you to know that we aren’t like them. We are not in favor of ethnic cleansing like some people we know. We aren’t asking for an executive order banning statues, or for statues to be rounded up and deported. We haven’t grabbed tiki torches or asked for money to build a wall and make the monuments pay for it. I have yet to hear a single black person mention statues raping our women and how “some, we assume, are good statues.”


A lot of the outrage you see about the non-Confederate statues is coming from white people offended on our behalf. It’s not as if we adore slave owners like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, but we are aware that slavery existed and that the celebration of them as great men must be placed in the context that all white men were white supremacist hypocrites who talked out of one side of their mouths about “liberty and justice for all” while participating in the evilest form of inhumanity. It’s the American way.

Plus, it’s hard for us to get belligerent about racist inanimate objects when we have to deal with actual, real-life racism on a daily basis.


Trust us, we know how you feel. We’ve seen our people chopped down and returned to the earth, too. We know what it’s like to be branded something you wish did not exist. To be hammered into something you do not wish to be. To have bits of yourself chipped away until you resemble something you are not. To be stolen from a land and slowly shaped into a different thing. To be fashioned into a memory. To stand in one place, unmoving, for centuries.

Do not fear us, dear statues. We may not love you, but we live in a world where replicas of white supremacists are far less troubling and demeaning than living in a country whose leader has unleashed actual hordes of rock-headed throwbacks to a bygone era. We’ve dealt with your existence for far too long to be worried about it now. Our sentiment about white statues echoes our sentiment about white people: Some of you are cool; we just wish you weren’t in our faces so much.


I hate cultural appropriation, but in order to adequately explain our position, I am forced to borrow one of the greatest lines in Caucasian history. I guess what we’re trying to say is:

Not all statues.

Yours truly,

Black people

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.



It will not surprise you to know that this topic has been HOT on the white BBQ circuit this summer. Inevitably, I find myself explaining that preservation of history does not mean the preservation of statues erected, non-contemporaneously, with a specific political agenda: maintaining white supremacy.

Despite my rhetorical gifts, I fail to convince many of my fellow white people of my position. My field reports tell me a simple truth. That even if a majority of white people would not describe, or even think of themselves, as racist, eliminating the privilege that comes with being white hits them in a subconscious place that makes them DEEPLY uncomfortable.

The statues have become shorthand. A way of talking about what they want (continued prerogatives based on race and gender) in veiled or coded terms (“Save our history!”). Which is why the fuckers have to come down. Because only when we expunge of telling of history of the fig-leaves that we use to deflect real discussion, we’re not going to get anywhere.