A Mississippi lawmaker is really upset that the state next door is taking down racist Confederate monuments. He was so upset, in fact, that he said that the local leaders taking down these monuments “should be LYNCHED!”
Mississippi state Rep. Karl Oliver, a Republican, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post:
The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, "leadership" of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.
The racially charged comment comes after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu led the charge to take down four Confederate monuments in the city. One was erected in 1891 to celebrate a deadly insurgency in 1874 — led by the white supremacist Crescent City White League — against an integrated police force and state militia. The others honored Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, all of whom betrayed the US and fought against the union during the Civil War to preserve slavery.
Landrieu is white, but most of the New Orleans City Council, which backed the plan to take down the monuments 6-1, is black — so Oliver’s call for a lynching was directed against at least some black lawmakers.
Oliver later apologized for his post: “I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians. In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”
Defenders of these monuments, such as Oliver, argue that honoring the Confederacy is really about commemorating Southern heritage, not defending white supremacy. But it’s impossible to separate the Confederacy from white supremacy, which is why New Orleans worked to tear down these monuments.
Yes, the Civil War was about slavery
This isn’t the first time the historical debate about the Confederacy has played out in the modern political arena. Back in 2015, following a mass shooting at a black church by a white supremacist, South Carolina finally took down a Confederate flag that previously flew at its state capitol.
Back then, people vigorously argued that the flag — just like New Orleans’s Confederate monuments — was not meant to be racist, but rather attempted to honor Southern heritage. The problem is this heritage is mired in racism — as demonstrated by states’ justifications for seceding at the start of the Civil War.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates noted in the Atlantic, South Carolina, the first state to secede, said in its official statement that it saw any attempts to abolish slavery and grant rights to black Americans as “hostile to the South” and “destructive of its beliefs and safety”:
A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
In a letter encouraging Texas to secede and join the Confederate States, Louisiana Commissioner George Williamson was even more explicit. He argued that the Confederacy was needed “to preserve the blessings of African slavery” and that the Confederate states “are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.”
These statements leave no doubt that the South fought in the Civil War to protect the institution of slavery.
Indeed, the first monument to come down in New Orleans was originally put up to honor an explicitly white supremacist group’s insurgence against a racially integrated police force. And the other monuments honor people who defended an explicitly racist institution like slavery — including Jefferson Davis, who was not only president of the Confederate States of America but actually called American slavery “the mildest and most humane of all institutions to which the name ‘slavery’ has ever been applied.”
Given this historical evidence, New Orleans is finally taking down monuments to such an explicitly racist cause.
“They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said in a speech defending his decision. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.”