But Grant was not to have peace during his eight years as president. He constantly had to battle the Klan and other white-supremacy terrorists who kept the South in violent turmoil. “Peace,” when it came under Grant’s successor Rutherford B. Hayes after the disputed electoral-vote count of 1876, came at the price of justice for black citizens of the South, when federal troops were all withdrawn from the region. The Union was intact, and chattel slavery was gone as a legal institution, but the Jim Crow regime of segregation, subjugation, and disenfranchisement arrived with a vengeance.
But our friends of good will who wish to preserve something of all this should be willing to give up something too. That something should be the prominent statues and monuments in the great open spaces of our communities that we share with all our fellow citizens. For these are in their turn a gratuitous slap in the face of people who have felt the sting too much already. For a white Yankee like me, they’re bad enough. For black Americans, they must be intolerable. Large and forgiving natures might look on the statues now as relics of an ugly past that the country has in many ways overcome, fading into the background of noisy traffic in the modern, bustling South. But recent events in Charlottesville suggest that this overcoming is by no means a finished business. The statues should go, in order to deprive today’s feckless white supremacists of rallying points at the feet of monuments erected by yesterday’s more successful white supremacists.
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