There is irony in R.L. Schreadley’s use of George Santayana’s quote on remembering history, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Sept. 1 Post and Courier).
Apparently, the only history that Schreadley remembers in his op-ed, “History in the making, breaking” are the time-worn and discredited “Lost Cause” myths surrounding the Civil War and Reconstruction. Schreadley’s “spin” on the past is that “Taken in context (monuments) say a lot about the times when the city, state, and country were struggling to recover from the horrific wounds suffered in the Civil War and Reconstruction, wounds suffered by whites and blacks alike.”
Schreadley seems to forget the “horrific wounds” enslaved Africans and their descendants suffered laboring and dying in slave labor camps euphemistically called plantations, or the more than 4,000 African Americans lynched during the Jim Crow era.
One of the monuments Schreadley references is the Calhoun monument on Marion Square, which honors a man who viewed the enslavement of blacks as a “positive good.” Calhoun’s concept of nullification formed the philosophical basis of the Civil War resulting in more than 600,000 American deaths and rendering the South destitute for generations. Today’s “towering” Calhoun monument’s completion in 1896 coincided with the terrorizing and disenfranchising of blacks and the inauguration of segregation and Jim Crow laws that reduced African Americans to second-class citizenship. Calhoun’s monument symbolized the return of white supremacy. Schreadley’s “Let’s get over this,” is a call to forget this ugly reality.
George Santayana was correct that to forget the past will condemn us to repeat it. The recent public displays by white supremacists and the racist dog whistles spouted by of some of our elected leaders and candidates for public office are warnings that to remember a skewed version of the past, in Schreadley words, “… is only to worsen and prolong social divisions or our city, state, and country.”
Robert R. Macdonald
Museum of the City of New York
Vice Chair Emeritus
South Carolina Aquarium
Island Walk East