We didn’t look long, far or hard, but what looking we did last week failed to find anyone who was adamant that the Confederate soldier standing guard at the Robeson County courthouse must come down.
Most folks gave our question a shrug, satisfied that the monument is an historic symbol that honors the Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War, more than 250,000 of them, the majority of whom we suspect believing that they were fighting to protect their homeland and a way of life — and, yes, a reliance on slave labor was a part of that.
Even Jerry Stephens, one of two blacks on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, didn’t seem anxious to topple the statue, but he did have a condition for it remaining where it is. He suggested not that a monument come down, but another go up, one of the late Rev. E.B. Turner, the longtime Lumberton councilman, former county commissioner, and a person who cast a long political shadow on the county for all or parts of six decades.
If that were to happen, and the statue were to be to scale, it should be a couple of inches taller than the existing sentinel. The reverend was a towering man.
Now we don’t know if Stephens was serious or just trying to stir that proverbial pot. Certainly Turner is deserving of an honor. More than anyone else, he kept calm in a tri-racial community during the difficult transition of the late 1960s and early 1970s from a segregated Robeson County to an integrated one. While there were riots and ugliness across this county as schools were desegregated, there was little of that here.
We would fully endorse the honoring of the Rev. Turner, but not sure erecting a statue on the courthouse is the best option. If you give it a second of thought, you will know why.
A statue of Turner would mean that in a county with a 40 percent American Indian population, the two statues on the courthouse steps would be of a white man — we presume that to be the Confederate soldier’s race — and a black man.
There isn’t much mystery as to who would be the perfect choice to fill out the threesome, a statue of Lumbee freedom fighter Henry Berrie Lowrie.
So instead of one coming down, two would have to go up. It’s why we won’t see the construction of a single school in Robeson County; they have to be built three at a time.
We don’t know what the cost of erecting those two monuments would be, but we know there are better ways to spend tax dollars in a poor county with unmet needs. Even if that could be achieved at no cost, we would prefer to do without all the acrimony that would be part of that conversation. There would only be more division, not less of it, which is why the national conversation about Confederate symbols is one we prefer didn’t occur.
We are sure the Confederate soldier’s 110-year stay at the courthouse is coming to an end, whether that be soon or not. The wheels have been set in motion thanks to the antics of a bunch of Nazis eight days ago, but it has always been just a matter of time.
We wish that a private coalition would form to raise money that could pay for the Confederate soldier to be moved, off public property, preferably to the sanctity of a museum, the rightful spot for such historical symbols. There is one right down Elm Street.
The Confederate soldier deserves a peaceful place to rest — and should not have to endure yet another divisive war, even if this one is words.