Sunday, September 27, 2015

Some Gave All: South Carolina World War One Memorial faces contro...

Some Gave All: South Carolina World War One Memorial faces contro...: A World War One memorial in South Carolina faces controversy due to its wording.


LeAnn28 said...

I found a similar WWI monument in Martinsburg, WV when we went a month or more ago. What are your thoughts regarding the wording on the plaque? I think it speaks to the time the monument was created and is a useful teaching moment for how our culture and language have changed over the years. While I understand the issue of the use of the word "colored," it is important for us to not rewrite history just because it offends us now. It is good that the use of the word colored offends us, but we have to realize that this word was not deemed offensive at the time that the monument was created. It is equally important that these soldiers were included on the monument at all, as they could have been left off completely. Thoughts?

Pat said...

My views are the same as yours on this issue.

I understand that today we'd find this shocking, but at the time the intent was to honor South Carolina's fallen, irrespective of race. If the names were segregated in on the monument, well that reflects the reality of segregation at the time, so the monument also stands to reflect the reality of American life, and hence our history, at that time as well.

Additionally, editing them now causes us to loose some history that is reflected in the wording that's additionally unintentional. If the monument were re-written to be color blind, it would in turn potentially under emphasize the sacrifice of these black soldiers, serving in a segregated Army. By noting who the white officers were, we emphasize the black nature of this unit. If the color of the officers had not been noted, it would actually tend to diminish, in my view, the service of the black troops in a segregated nation. And some would no doubt erroneously assume that the unit had black officers, a position in the military which was generally denied to blacks at the time (there were some black officers during World War One, but they were very, very few in number).

This does cause me to think of an even more extreme example of this, fwiw, that being the Santa Fe Obelisk monument in the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The marble in that monument has text actually chipped out of it. The monument, which has been in place for over a century, now reads:

To the heroes who have fallen in various battles with [ ] Indians in the Territory of New Mexico.".

The word "savage" was removed from the memorial. Granted, that term is horribly racist and not reflective of a group of people who, after all, were only defending their native land from encroachment. But the chipping of the language out places the views of those who were encroaching out of context. Had the monument been left as it had been originally, the aggressive nature of American settlement of the West would be more apparent, so the change ironically serves to preserve the view of those who placed it and continue to misconstrue the Indians side.

LeAnn28 said...

Yes, yes, yes! Exactly. We must understand the context of the monument, both in the time it was erected, as well as what it was intending to commemorate. As you said, we must acknowledge that these soldiers served in a segregated army with white officers and returned to a segregated society for 40-50 more years in the US. It is irresponsible, in my opinion, to remove the word from the monument for all of those reasons. We can't ignore, or whitewash, our history, even when what happened in the past offends us now.