The Conversation: Why Taking Down Memorials is Only a First Step

Derek Alderman, a professor in the Department of Geography, recently co-authored an article published by the Conversation with Josh Inwood, a former UT professor who is now a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University.

The article expanded on a recent decision to remove several Confederate monuments in the city of New Orleans. This decision caused much debate with supporters arguing that these memorials celebrate racism and memorialize white supremacy, while critics of the removal say the effort erases history.

“We are scholars of memory and cultural landscape,” the article states. “Our work shows that challenging Confederate symbols that legitimize white supremacy is certainly the right thing to do because of the historic legacies of racism they represent. However, taking down Confederate symbols cannot just be a feel-good moment or a substitute for the hard work of racial reconciliation and understanding to advance justice.”

The authors continue to explain that removing memorials only scratches the surface of creating a society in which all people – regardless of color, religion, gender or sexuality – are able to live out their limitless potential.