The Georgia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans has issued a statement in response to plans to erect a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. atop Stone Mountain. As you might suspect, they are not pleased. Their statement is couched in some history of the site as well as their legal reading that supposedly prevents the erection of additional monuments on the landscape. The SCV has had little success with legal cases in the past, so I don’t put much stock in their reasoning. More interesting, however, are their concerns about how a monument to King alters the meaning of the site.
Consider the following passages:
This decision by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association is wholly inappropriate in that it is an intentional act of disrespect toward the stated purpose of the Stone Mountain memorial from its inception as well as a possible violation of the law which established the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and charged it with promoting the mountain as a Confederate memorial.
The erection of monuments to anyone other than Confederate heroes in Stone Mountain Park is in contradistinction to the purpose for which the park exists and would make it a memorial to something different. The park was never intended to be a memorial to multiple causes but solely to the Confederacy. Therefore, monuments to either Michael King or soldiers of any color who fought against the Confederacy would be a violation of the purpose for which the park was created and exists.
Furthermore, the erection of a monument to anything other than the Confederate Cause being placed on top of Stone Mountain because of the objections of opponents of Georgia’s Confederate heritage would be akin to the state flying a Confederate battle flag atop the King Center in Atlanta against the wishes of King supporters. Both would be altogether inappropriate and disrespectful acts, repugnant to Christian people.
It isn’t at first clear what the SCV believes to be the original meaning of the carving when it was commissioned and completed, but by the end there can be little doubt. The problem isn’t simply the presence of multiple causes or multiple meanings atop Stone Mountain. The problem is that MLK and black Union soldiers threaten – in a way that no other monument can – the meaning of the place. The Confederate carving and monument to King don’t just point to different narratives, the problem is that the presence of the latter throws a shadow on the former – a shadow that no number of mythical black Confederate soldiers can remove.
Why would a Confederate flag atop the King Center be offensive? Because it is the flag of an army that struggled for four years to help bring about an independent slaveholding republic. And it is the flag that white supremacists have used ever since to keep that cause alive. That is why anyone would see it as disrespectful.
What the SCV should have done was supported the placement of an MLK monument, but suggested that it be located elsewhere. Unfortunately for the SCV their attempt to explain why it is inappropriate at Stone Mountain reinforces why organizers want it there in the first place. In other words, the SCV confirmed what we all know to be true: that slavery and white supremacy lay at the center of the Confederate experiment.