There are 718 Confederate statues, in 31 states — including many in the North. There are 860 roads across the U.S. named after Confederate historical figures. There are 188 schools, public and private. There are 80 counties and cities named after Confederates. And although the Union Army defeated the Confederate States Army, 10 military bases are named after Confederate Civil War heroes.
Replacing each and every one of these memorials would surely improve race relations in the United States. African-Americans would see that states and cities nationwide had chosen to dissociate themselves with a rebellion based on perpetuating the enslavement of their people. And Southerners — even those who consider themselves firm supporters of civil rights, who have nostalgic feelings somehow solely for non-racial Southern identity markers such as Southern hospitality, antebellum architecture, barbecue, and the like — would have to swallow any pride and realize it is the right thing to do.
This project could not happen overnight. It would take years, and cost billions.
94 percent of all Americans support equal rights for African-Americans. The question for us then is how much of a priority replacing those many Confederate symbols should be, in a long list of urgent matters facing African-Americans today:
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world — 1.6 million. According to a 2010 PEW Report, “young black men without a high school diploma are more likely to be found in a cell than in the workplace.”
Militarized police in Northern as well as Southern cities have a terrible pattern of responding quickly and violently when they confront African-Americans, even if it’s just a traffic stop.
Federal, State, and local government continue to prosecute the “War on Drugs,” which focuses heavily on African-American men.
Single Parent Households
With so many African-American men in prison, many mothers are forced to raise their children alone.
Millions of African-Americans still live in poverty, in poor living conditions, in inner cities often bereft of key services.
The African-American unemployment rate remains twice as high as for the general population.
Income inequality has a far greater impact on African-Americans.
Voter I.D. laws have been passed in several states, with the aim of suppressing African-American, largely Democratic, voting.
Attacks on Affirmative Action
Legislation in several states has rolled back decades of gains for African-Americans from Affirmative Action programs, with the Department of Justice now joining the rollback.
Real estate discrimination.
“There goes the neighborhood” is alive and well in the real estate market, with redlining and extreme difficulties for African-Americans getting home loans.
Is the racist cop shooting the black teenager, or the racist mortgage lender rejecting an application from an African-American family, less likely to do so if he doesn’t pass Robert E. Lee Blvd. every morning when driving to work? Who knows? The only hope we should have right now is that this symbolic controversy not serve to halt progress in race relations and the deep structural changes needed to improve the lives of African-Americans.
Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times, and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters, and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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