Why did it take the murder of a white woman for the Confederate statues at UT to come down?

Three monuments to Confederate leaders were removed this week


Eighty years after they were first dedicated, UT Austin has finally taken down campus statues that celebrated leading figures of the Confederacy.

It's been a long time coming – protests calling for the removal of these monuments have raged for years before they were taken down this week. Back in 2015, students protested in the wake of the massacre of nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina (the perpetrator was inspired by the Confederacy).

As the death of a white woman in Charlottesville has led to other Confederate monuments being taken down across America, some students are questioning why it took so long for UT to catch up.

Paul S Mannie III, a senior majoring in Government and minor and African and African Diaspora Studies at UT, has spoken out in an interview with The Tab about this question. The Student of African American Brotherhood member posted on Facebook: "For decades people have protested for the removal of these statues but it was done overnight in the wake of the murder of a white woman by a terrorist. Were Black bodies not enough?"

So we caught up with Paul to ask how Longhorns have reacted to the statues coming down.

What's been your response to the statues being removed?

It's been a mix of emotions for me and my most of my friends. Of course it's something that we want to happen – it's great the statues are down – but for it to take what it took to come down is staggering and disheartening. Especially since the last major time there was a huge for push to get them taken down was in President Greg Fenves' first year, it was following the murder of those nine people in the church in Charleston. So to draw the comparison to then, it's sad that nine black people were murdered and one statue came down, versus this time. Of course this time they are rallying around the statues, so I see the difference. But at the end of the day, one white woman was murdered by a terrorist. If you really just look at it and the facts that happened, what's the main difference between the two events?

Have a lot of students at UT been saying the same thing?

Definitely. A couple of my friends who were involved in the protests in 2015, when the president first got a commission together to evaluate what should be done, it pointed out that all of the statues should be taken down. And that's not the option he went with. My friends who were involved then definitely have drawn parallels and feel like their voice doesn't matter as much as whatever voice got him to take the statues down now.

One of my friends who protested in 2015 responded to me on Facebook and said this was something she was protesting when she was in school – at that time none of the statues got taken down.

One of the arguments from the administration's side has always been that all the monuments are in an exhibit together. But when all those statues were put up, they were from a benefactor who was in the Confederacy, George Littlefield. Our main fountain is named after him and the statues were all erected at the same time. Their main argument has been if you take one or two statues down, you're taking down the exhibit. But the exhibit should be in a museum anyway.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=DKf9x2V7XBE%3Ffeature%3Doembed

Have any students protested the statues coming down, or is it just crusty old dudes?

I definitely have been in a couple of government classes where we've had the argument. The argument I hear from most students who would want them to stay up is that they don't care. It's more that they say: "I don't see how this is affecting me or anyone else." But it's not many people that I've heard from personally who say "Well, actually I appreciate the Confederacy and the history behind it." I think I've had one conversation with a black peer who spouted the normal rebuttal that "This is history, we shouldn't be erasing history, this is the fabric of our university." But these statues, like many of the Confederate statues in the South, were erected during the Jim Crow era. They went up to frighten African American people in general.