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What we can do now about Stone Mountain's 150ft Confederate carving?

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30.06.2020

The current national attention to the interrelated issues of policy reform and representation, along with the murder of two Black men here in Georgia, got me thinking again about the state’s giant monument to white supremacy on the side of Stone Mountain.

It is too big to just tear down, like they are doing with statues in Richmond and elsewhere, but something is going to happen with it eventually. Anti-racist sentiment is growing, and the makeup of Georgia’s population is changing so fast that some kind of modification is inevitable. And while I believe decisions about what ultimately happens there should emerge from meaningful public engagement, I don’t believe we have to wait any longer to make change. Below are some ideas we can start to implement now.

First, some context and history.

Stone Mountain is a massive geological aberration. Often incorrectly identified as granite, the exposed rock is technically a “quartz monzonite dome monadnock” that extends underground for miles in every direction. The visible portion rises 1,686ft (514 meters) above sea level, or 825ft above the surrounding Georgia piedmont.

Located 14 miles east of downtown Atlanta, it sits within a 3,200-acre (1,294-hectare) forest-cum-theme-park that is owned by the state of Georgia and managed by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. It is cited as “Georgia’s most visited attraction, drawing nearly 4 million guests each year”. Best known for its laser-light show that runs every night throughout the summer, the park also offers hiking, fishing, camping, paddle boats, an excursion train, a golf course, a Marriott conference center, educational exhibits and a handful of memorials to white supremacy.

The icon of Stone Mountain Park is one of those memorials. It’s also the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world. Occupying the steep northern slope of the mountain and measuring 76ft tall by 158ft wide, the carving depicts the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, along with the Confederate generals Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. They are riding their favorite horses with their hats over their hearts. Like most southern civil war memorials, their real purpose is to instill in us a 20th-century romanticized narrative about the American south that helps maintain white supremacy through a segregated and unequal society.

The sculpture is an irreparable scar on an ancient mountain with a long history of habitation and use by indigenous people. More blatantly offensive, however, is the sculpture’s undeniable reverence for hate and violence and the honor it bestows on the generals, who, by definition,........

© The Guardian