I find myself troubled by the direction and sentiment of what appears from the current temperature to be the majority of UT student opinion, and, after the removal of four statues on campus on Aug. 21, what is obviously the opinion of UT leadership.
It feels as though we are all to some degree awash in this unceasing undercurrent of political correctness. I understand the origin. It is a stream of thought that is built and justified based on good intentions and what feels like doing the right thing in the moment. After all, who wants to find themselves on the side of an argument with the likes of neo-Nazis and white nationalists? Who wants to find themselves aligned with the worst of what Robert E. Lee, Albert Johnston and John Reagan have grown to represent in the modern era? I am certain that I don’t. But bringing down those statues, or feeling implicated before that by their continued position on campus, is frankly a disingenuous and reactionary move in the continuing litany of a generation largely defined by its addiction to outrage.
I understand and largely agree with the vehement protestation of Confederate ideals. I understand that, as a human being with a moral compass, when a group of reprehensibles in Virginia decide to define their collective trajectory by inciting violence and taking life from whom they disagree, our immediate reaction is to define ourselves as an antithesis. The move on campus on August 21 was that collective motion, but I feel it was misguided.
Nothing has changed concerning the objective morality of those statues between 1916 and now besides the lens through which it is being currently filtered, and I for one refuse to let white nationalism dictate whether they are all of the sudden morally objectionable or not, or what they should or should not stand for, or where they belong or don’t belong. Those statues are a representation of our collective past, for better or for worse, and there is no running from that. Leaving them where they stood wasn’t an acknowledgment of anything besides that very fact. We can tuck them away in Briscoe so that we can deem them artifacts of an ancient civilization, hide our collective head under the pillow and scream at the top of our lungs, but all we have really done by reacting to this charge of hatred is continue to define ourselves on the same old boundaries that the South once did. I refuse to believe we have made so little progress.
Those statues don’t get to change, but as a society we do — and we have. When I walked by them I was filled with pride, not for what some base, abject group decided they meant in 2017, but for just how far we have come from that place and time. I think the University’s actions and popular sentiment decided yesterday that they should continue to mean something else entirely.
Carney is an economics major from Austin.