On Sunday, Jeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama, said that removing Confederate monuments is a matter of homeland security.
“That’s not a matter of political correctness, that’s a matter of public safety and homeland security, and doing what’s right,” Johnson told ABC News in an interview.
“What alarms so many of us, from a security perspective, is that so many of the statues — the Confederate monuments — are now, modern day, becoming symbols and rallying points for white nationalism, for neo-Nazis, for the KKK,” the former DHS secretary explained.
“We fought a World War against Nazism. The KKK rained terror on African-Americans for generations,” Johnson said. “I support those in cities and states who are taking down a lot of these monuments for reasons of public safety and security.”
Cities, states, and private entities do not argue they are removing the statues for “public safety and security,” however. The University of Texas, which removed Confederate statues in the wee hours of Monday morning, explained that these monuments were “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”
In April, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu — whom Jeh Johnson praised in his interview — said, “The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.” The city removed its four statues in April and May.
Anna Lope Brosche, president of the Jacksonville City Council in Florida, announced a plan of action to take an inventory of Confederate symbols and relocate them to museums. In her statement, Bosche noted that the monuments evoke “some really negative emotions, and pain and hurt.”
Some have mentioned safety — the safety of vandals who might try to remove the monuments. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he must “protect North Carolinians and keep them safe,” citing “the likelihood of protesters being injured or worse as they may try to topple” the monuments, in addition to the threat of violence in rallies like Charlottesville.
Removing monuments might not guarantee safety or that white supremacists won’t rally in locations which used to have monuments, however.
Furthermore, the Left’s rush to defend vandals, to protect feelings, and to champion Antifa on the grounds that it is fighting Nazis suggests that this is an issue of political correctness more than one of homeland security.
Johnson was right to note that America fought the Nazis in World War II, but the Soviet Union also fought the Nazis then. Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviets killed millions of their own people — more than Hitler ever did. This history should remind Americans that even though “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” that doesn’t place the enemy of a Nazi automatically on the side of the angels.
While Obama’s DHS secretary defended taking down Confederate monuments, he argued that “most African-Americans … are not advocating that we take [America’s founders] off the currency, or drop Washington’s name from the nation’s capital.” Johnson also said, “I have cousins whose names are Washington, and they’re not changing their names, they’re proud of their name.”
Johnson called on local leaders and communities to make judgments on Confederate monuments, in order to preserve some nuance. This also does not fit the former DHS secretary’s call to remove monuments in the name of “homeland security.”
If the monuments are a security threat, why should any local leader be allowed to preserve them? Perhaps Johnson realized that most Americans support keeping the Confederate monuments. In fact, a new NPR/PBS Marist poll found that 62 percent of Americans support leaving the statues where they are.
This is an issue of political correctness. If the statues were a unique security threat, as Johnson suggested, he would call on President Donald Trump to remove them immediately, rather than allowing local governments to keep them.
The monuments may serve as rallying points for white supremacists, as seen in Charlottesville, but last year’s riots in Milwaukee, Dallas, and Baltimore should remind Americans that violence is not unique to white supremacists, and rallies can burst into violence wherever they’re located. Confederate monuments are not a unique rallying point for violence.
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