Why Adam Putnam Is Wrong about Florida's Confederate Monuments

August 17, 2017
By Chris King

Our state and nation are at a crossroads. Donald Trump has diminished the office of the presidency with his failure to clearly and convincingly denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism. The events in Charlottesville last weekend were tragic, and they’re doomed to repeat themselves if we do not address the root causes for violence and hate.

This moment calls for new leaders to step forward and fight against racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazism. This week, I wrote that all Confederate monuments in Florida should be orderly removed from public lands and transferred to museums, cemeteries, or other places where they’re not revered or celebrated.

Just today, Donald Trump tweeted that the removal of the Confederate statue in Charlottesville was “sad” and that further attempts to remove “beautiful” Confederate statues are “foolish.” And Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has echoed this stance.

Putnam argues that the removal of these Confederate statue would create a slippery slope to the removal or renaming relics of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. But these men, our founding fathers, sought to build our nation and create a more perfect union — unlike Confederate generals who sought to dismantle the Union and preserve slavery.

Adam Putnam argues that this debate isn’t about the statues. I argue that statutes are just the tip of the iceberg.

These statues were largely erected during Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights era. They represent countless efforts to stifle political, social, and economic freedoms of people of color and harken back to the nostalgia of the Old South. When our cities, counties, and state allow these statues to remain, they’re sending a clear message that Confederate values, the same values that created a lawful underclass of black Americans for centuries, are to be respected and honored. There is no honor in the centuries of oppression and hate that these statues represent.

Putnam asks why we are focused on eradicating statutes and not hate. The better question to ask is: How can we eradicate hate from people’s hearts if we don’t remove hate from our public spaces? What message does it send to communities of color that we’re willing to give more protection to a stone statue than a living person?

Denunciations of violence or a hateful ideology are hollow if they aren’t followed by action. When they come from public leaders, this hypocrisy compounds the pain.

Our state and nation are at a crossroads, and we must choose the path of progress. It is incumbent on those of us in positions of power or influence to not just denounce racism, but to do something about it. To take action. We must remove and relocate these Confederate monuments to send a clear message that we are ready to move past our racist past and toward a more inclusive and welcoming future.

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