The confederate monument in Pioneer Cemetery will come down—at least if the City Council has its way. With four dissenters, the Council on Wednesday evening declared the monument a noncontributing structure to the historic overlay district and authorized $480,000 to disassemble it and take it away.
It’s not over just yet: The issue now gets tossed down to the Landmark Commission, which has the ultimate authority to decide whether to deploy that money to take the monument down. They’ll decide whether the monument is indeed a crucial piece of the district. Pioneer Cemetery is downtown, within view of some City Hall offices and the convention center.
“We have to confront racism head on,” said South Dallas Councilman Kevin Felder, who was dealing with his own drama throughout the meeting. “What are we thinking? Reconceptualize? Who wants to reconceptualize the confederacy.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates expressed concern that this was too much to put on a commission. She asked instead to delay the Council’s vote until June 12. Her ultimate goal was to have an artist named Lauren Woods recontextualize the memorial, and said it’d take until June to get a solid outline of Woods’ intentions. Gates joined Rickey Callahan, Adam McGough, and Sandy Greyson in voting against the resolution to remove the monument. Callahan, who represents Pleasant Grove, made a slippery slope argument, saying we must preserve these sorts of monuments because, otherwise, next thing we know we might be ripping down the monument to slave owner George Washington or pulling him off the $1 bill. “I want this madness to stop,” he said. He also mentioned that his father’s best friend was a black man, a point that elicited groans and some small outbursts from the crowd.
The crowd and Council wanted it gone.
Councilman Mark Clayton touched on the city’s previous failed attempts to find a museum to house the monument.
“If the museums—whose job it is, is to take history and put it into a medium that our next generation can learn from—if they are saying that it is not a piece of history that we should keep, then why are we propping it up as a city to find a justification to keep it there?” Clayton said. “I don’t understand that.”
Added Mayor Pro Team Casey Thomas, who represents south Oak Cliff: “We talk about the history of Dallas. If we want to be honest, it’s not a pretty story. But at some point in time we have to acknowledge the sins of the past. We have to say, what type of Dallas do we want going forward?”