Set in Stone?: Controversial Monuments and Protest

On August 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia two groups of protestors faced off over the removal of a Confederate statue. During these protests, a woman was killed when one of the Confederate supporters hit her with a vehicle. The United States is facing a dilemma of what to do with Confederate statues across the country.[1] Some see saving Confederate monuments as an opportunity to honor the past and buttress white supremacy. Another group sees the statues as memorials that glorify a racist social order in the past and the present. Finally, a third, less active, group that ideologically agrees to some extent with the previous group, but believes that the statues should stay in their place as an important marker of history. These groups disagree with each other and they have taken to the streets in conflict over their differences. The conflict and arguments between these sides are long running and unlikely to be resolved easily. However, the United States is not the only place to face issues over controversial monuments. All over the world, legacies of oppression and colonialism have left their mark that the current citizens of nations must address. In nations ranging from Estonia to Korea and South Africa to Russia, people have dealt with these memories in a variety of ways. In this work, I examine other nations and monuments not associated with the Confederates and their approaches to controversial monuments. Those approaches and debates are compared to the current methods being taken in the United States. The goal is that something is learned from other examples. Every nation and people are different and their histories are different. This means that other approaches cannot be wholly duplicated in another context, but the situations are similar enough that lessons can be taken from other experiences.

[1] Unknown. “Confederate Monuments Are Coming Down Across the United States. Here’s a List.” New York Times, August 28th, 2017.


Created as part of the Politics of Peace & Gender course at Cleveland State University