Do Confederate memorials honor soldiers killed in war or memorialize racism?
While the debate about removing Confederate monuments rages across the country, one group in South Carolina is looking to see some of the statues in the Palmetto State repaired.
The South Carolina Secessionist Party sent a letter to the members of the Charleston City Council pressing the governing body to make repairs to the Confederate monuments in White Point Gardens.
Not because of damage inflicted by protesters. But from the ravages of exposure to the elements over the years since they have been erected.
“The Charleston Confederate Defenders monument has sustained an almost disrespectful amount of wear-and-tear due to lack of proper maintenance,” S.C. Secessionist Party chairman James Bessenger wrote in a letter to the city council.
The disrepair Bessinger describes includes large portions of missing mortar and sealant, large chunks breaking out of the base and one stone step becoming separated from the base.
“All of these issues will worsen until addressed with proper maintenance,” Bessinger said. “We have to ensure that we are taking care of what we have before we ever entertain the idea of adding to them.”
Bessinger was referring to a proposed plaque to be added to the monument of John C. Calhoun in Charleston. The plaque was commissioned by Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg, asking the Charleston History Commission to “describe who Calhoun was and clearly elucidate his views on racism, slavery, and white supremacy.”
Part of the wording on the proposed plaque to be added to the monument read that it, “Was erected at a time, after Reconstruction, when most white South Carolinians believed in white supremacy, and the state enacted legislation establishing racial segregation. These ideas are now universally condemned.”
This proposal drew a strong rebuke from the S.C. Secessionist Party, as Bessenger said “To so widely condemn the people of South Carolina who are long since dead and unable to speak for themselves is disgusting and must not be sponsored by the City of Charleston.”
The Charleston City Council hasn’t decided whether to approve or change the language for the proposed plaque. For the moment, the issue has been deferred to a later date, something Bessenger applauded.
“We hope that should any such talk arise again that the council will be open and transparent with the community, allowing those concerned to voice their opinions,” Bessenger said.
While the S.C. Secessionist Party might be pleased with the status of the proposed plaque, it could react differently should recently proposed legislation pass.
A pair of bills filed in the Legislature would repeal the controversial, 18-year-old Heritage Act. That law paved the way for the Confederate flag to come off the S.C. State House dome in 2000. But it also required all other public historical markers to stay in place.
Bills filed by state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, and state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, would repeal the state-approval requirement, allowing cities, counties, school districts and colleges to decide themselves how to handle these historical lightning rods.