After demonstrations surrounding the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va. devolved into deadly violence last weekend, the debate over whether monuments celebrating the Confederacy should remain standing was ignited once again.
The disgusting and craven white nationalists who rallied around Lee on Friday and Saturday deserve absolutely no validation whatsoever, but before the rally was even planned, one conservative leader broached a fresh take on the matter that's worth revisiting in light of recent events.
Asked about the value of preserving statues that honor slaveowners in a May interview on Fox News, Condoleezza Rice argued against what she called the "sanitizing" of history. "I am a firm believer in 'keep your history before you' and so I don't actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners," she said. "I want us to have to look at those names and recognize what they did and to be able to tell our kids what they did, and for them to have a sense of their own history."
"When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it's a bad thing," the former secretary of state added.
Rice's defense in favor of preservation is rooted in an argument that is the basic opposite of the reason white nationalists are rallying for Lee. They believe it to be a persistent reminder of a positive history. Rice, on the other hand, believes preserving monuments to the darker moments of our past ensures future generations are acquainted with history and charge forward rather than backward, away from the mistakes of their ancestors, rather than into their fading bronze arms.
To be clear, Rice has not yet voiced her opinion on this particular statue. But hers is an interesting perspective to consider at a time when a small but vocal group of racist bigots is drawing attention to one of the darkest times in our nation's history.
In an interview later that month, Rice addressed Confederate monuments again by remarking, "It's not actually our heritage, it's our history," adding, "We as a people have thankfully moved on."
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.