Houston Matters

Should We Destroy Symbols of Hate or Preserve Them as History?

A federal jury recently (Jan. 10, 2017) determined Dylann Roof should be sentenced to death for killing nine African Americans in an historic black church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. After the shooting, political leaders in South Carolina and Alabama responded by removing the Confederate battle flag from their state capitol buildings. Of course, there’s long […]

Peter Caldwall, a history professor at Rice University, talks with guest host Ernie Manouse on Jan. 24, 2017.A federal jury recently (Jan. 10, 2017) determined Dylann Roof should be sentenced to death for killing nine African Americans in an historic black church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. After the shooting, political leaders in South Carolina and Alabama responded by removing the Confederate battle flag from their state capitol buildings.

Of course, there’s long been debate over the use of that symbol of the Confederacy, which many decry as racist and offensive, and others defend as historically and culturally important. And a listener recently shared with Houston Matters his surprise to find patches bearing swastikas and Nazi SS imagery for sale at a local store.

So, what should we do about such symbolism? Should we eliminate it? Should we relegate it strictly to history books and museums? And how do we bridge the disconnect between those who see such symbols as strictly and solely representative of hate and those who see them as historically important? Where’s the line between preserving and understanding history and glorifying racism and anti-Semitism?

To find out, we ask Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow for the Anti-Defamation League, and Peter Caldwell, a history professor at Rice University.

(Above: Peter Caldwall, a history professor at Rice University, talks with guest host Ernie Manouse. Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public Media)

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