Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Banning Hateful Symbols & Removing Monuments: A Better Way of Remembering History

For much of my life there was no debate on the display of racist symbols such as the rebel flag, or statues erected to memorialize mass-murdering sex traffickers like Columbus.

For a smaller time in my life there was some debate, but few listening and no one taking action.

Today, for the first time in my life, it finally feels as if we are potentially at the cusp of a momentum of change.

From Nascar banning the rebel flag from their properties and events, to congress wanting to strip all military assets of names/dedications that glorify the confederacy, to the Speaker of the House calling for statues of traitors be removed from the Capitol, we are beginning to see positive movement that so many of us have long hoped for.

Even though there is finally a momentum building, there is also an endless number of racists who insist that we must keep all of our monuments, and who continue defending display of a flag long since defeated. The fall-back argument they use time after time is simply that we must “remember history, and not erase it.”

Of course, those who say this have often already forgotten history– such as the fact that most confederate monuments were built between the 1890’s and 1950 during the era of Jim Crow in order to intimidate people of color, or that Georgia and South Carolina only added the rebel flag during the civil rights movement as a way to express resistance to equality. Or better yet, they try to redefine what the rebel flag means (AKA, re-writing history), when it actually means “We quit the United States and are keeping our slaves– and we double dog dare you to come down here and do something about it.”

These things are not so much relics of history as they are vestiges of white supremacy.

(Side note, isn’t it kinda strange that the people who fly a flag that literally means “We quit America” also like to call themselves American patriots?)

Regardless of the underlying racism inherent in wanting to display these things or glorify those leaders of evil, this idea that keeping these vestiges prominently visible in our country is the best way to remember history, is simply wrong.

Displaying symbols of the confederacy and erecting monuments to those who betrayed America and thought it was okay to buy and sell human beings, is not how we remember correctly– or how we remember at all. In fact, doing so actually leads us to destigmatize, re-write, and forget something that must never be forgotten.


It is the total banishment and prohibition of these symbols and monuments that is the far more powerful way to ensure there is a collective memory of our history and national shame.


Allowing something to remain prevalent through multiple generations is actually how history is forgotten or rewritten. Case in point are those who have grown up with the rebel flag and now try to tell us it magically means something different than what it actually means. It is the same with monuments built to memorialize confederate leaders– somehow it slowly shifts from something built to intimidate people of color, to becoming something important to keep because it’s “part of history.”

We must keep these things as a nation in order to remember our history, you say?

Um, no– no, we don’t.

The United States would do well to learn a lesson from Germany, a nation who has chosen the far more effective way of remembering and preserving their history: banishment of the symbols or any glorification of their past national sin, or the leaders who led them to it.

Germany will forever be my second home– it is the place I lived in my late teen years throughout my early 20’s. And from my years living there I can tell you one thing is for certain:

Germany remembers their history far better than Americans do, and they do it without flying Nazi flags at football matches or giant statues of Hitler or Himmler.

It is illegal to display nazi symbols in Germany– it is even illegal to give the nazi salute, and this is something that actually preserves them in history– it traps them in national shame so that they cannot slowly become less offensive or take on slightly new meaning for a future generation. The fact that it is illegal to deny the factualness of their historical atrocities, that they criminal charge surviving Nazis to this day– no matter how old they are when they are discovered, and that memorials remembering that period of their history are memorials to their own victims instead of to those who perpetuated it, is how one correctly remembers and preserves history.

Why? Because Germany recognizes these symbols are not harmless relics of the past, but are Volksverhetzung– something that incites hatred of others. It is no different than the rebel flag of the shameful American south, or monuments to commemorate evil men– they are our Volksverhetzung.

So you say that we need the rebel flag and confederate monuments so that we don’t forget or re-write our own history?

In all my years in Germany I never saw a statue of Hitler in a town square, or a Nazi flag flying in someone’s front yard. Even when shopping antiques, anything from that era which had a nazi symbol on it was required to have that evil symbol covered up as something too vile for a passing eye.

It was because of this– not despite it– that I’d never met a German who was not keenly aware of their history and the collective shame for what their parents and grandparents had done.

While so many keep saying we need these things lest we forget, German culture, I assure you, is very much a culture of remembrance

And it is the absence and forbidden nature of some things in Germany that constantly remind them.

So, if you really mean what you say about how important it is that we remember our history and learn from it instead of erasing it, let’s do what has already proven to work in Germany:

Let us, as a people, banish and outlaw these symbols and monuments under an eternal blanket of shame– for it is their conspicuous absence from our culture that will call us to remembrance with a voice that speaks far more loudly.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

Join the resistance: Subscribe to posts and email updates from BLC!

Also from Benjamin L. Corey:

Books from BLC:

Previous
Next
What you think

Post Comments:

55 Responses

    1. No. He does not. The Left in America has no understanding of the importance of Freedom of Speech. They seem unable to comprehend that if Trump’s supporters had applied the same restrictions to The Left that the Left wants to apply to Trump supporters, it would have required new prisons to be built to hold all the imprisoned dissidents.

      Seriously, Left. Think about it. If Trump and his supporters had the power to censor speech the way you want to censor speech, how long do you think you’d remain free? How long do you think you’d get to keep your job or home or place of business?

      If group A can take away group B’s freedom, then someday another group C will take away group A’s freedom. If Freedom of Speech is not absolute, then we have no Freedom at all.

  1. You seem to APPLAUD that certain speech is BANNED in Germany. Sure, Nazi symbolism is most certainly evil. But banning speech and symbols simply because we find them heinous is a path into a totalitarian dictatorship which can quell dissent by fiat.

    Imagine if President Trump and the GOP had been given the power to ban so-called “hate-speech” as you seem to applaud Germany doing. People like you would have simply had their speech defined as “Hate Speech” by those in power, and you would have been thrown in prison. Is that not obvious?

    If Freedom of Speech is not absolute, then Freedom of Speech means nothing. If the Government can stop whatever speech they define as “hate speech”, the they can stop you or I or anyone else from speaking. Freedom of Speech for ANYONE can only exist if it exists for EVERYONE.

    But what I find even more disturbing in your blog post is that you seem to think individual Germans should feel shame over things that were done by OTHER Germans, most of who were dead before today’s Germans were ever born.

    Do you realize it is a SIN to feel shame over something that YOU did not do? And yet, this is what you seem to applaud in today’s German citizens.

    You also seem to applaud the German Nation feel holding onto collective shame forever. This is something the left now embraces. If some group did something bad 200 years ago, you want the current iteration of that group to feel bad about it. That, my friend, is both evil and counter-productive. Shame for the past simply binds us to it.

    One wonders what the German people could accomplish if they would just drop the shame of the past.

  2. You seem to APPLAUD that certain speech is BANNED in Germany. Sure, Nazi symbolism is most certainly evil. But banning speech and symbols simply because we find them heinous is a path into a totalitarian dictatorship which can quell dissent by fiat.

    Imagine if President Trump and the GOP had been given the power to ban so-called “hate-speech” as you seem to applaud Germany doing. People like you would have simply had their speech defined as “Hate Speech” by those in power, and you would have been thrown in prison. Is that not obvious?

    If Freedom of Speech is not absolute, then Freedom of Speech means nothing. If the Government can stop whatever speech they define as “hate speech”, the they can stop you or I or anyone else from speaking. Freedom of Speech for ANYONE can only exist if it exists for EVERYONE.

    But what I find even more disturbing in your blog post is that you seem to think individual Germans should feel shame over things that were done by OTHER Germans, most of who were dead before today’s Germans were ever born.

    Do you realize it is a SIN to feel shame over something that YOU did not do? And yet, this is what you seem to applaud in today’s German citizens.

    You also seem to applaud the German Nation feel holding onto collective shame forever. This is something the left now embraces. If some group did something bad 200 years ago, you want the current iteration of that group to feel bad about it. That, my friend, is both evil and counter-productive. Shame for the past simply binds us to it.

    One wonders what the German people could accomplish if they would just drop the shame of the past.

      1. You do realize I’m not concerned about the physical monuments, right? I’m concerned about the idea that anyone should feel any sense of shame or responsibility over something in which he/she was not actually involved. I’m concerned about banning speech.

        The monuments themselves aren’t the issue.

        1. Free speech isn’t absolute. As evidenced by voting machines billion dollar lawsuits against trumpers.

          As far as guilt and responsibility go, you could just be like Japan and deny you did anything.

          You are aware your country persecuted supposed communists in your own country.

          Seems free speech only matters when it’s the rabid Right doing it.

          1. No one alive in Japan today had anything in regards to WW2. So, the attitude of today’s Japanese should ABSOLUTELY be, “I didn’t do any of that. That was a bunch of other people who happen to live on the same island I do now. Not my problem.”

            The ways that communists were once persecuted in this country absolutely violated their First Amendment rights it should have never happened. That’s more or less unanimously agreed upon here now. But don’t expect me or anyone else alive today to feel any responsibility about that. Sure it was wrong. But I didn’t do it.

            The only real exception the courts have upheld for First Amendment protections in this country is deliberate deception or making threats. What will happen with the current round of lawsuits regarding the claims about the voting machines, I don’t know. But what SHOULD happen is that either the defendants be shown to have KNOWINGLY made untrue statements, or the defendants will win the case. Whether the defendants statements were untrue or not is not the question. The standard is, did they KNOW the statements were untrue?

            That has generally been the standard in the past. Sometimes you’ll hear the saying, “You can’t yell, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater,” but that’s not actually what the courts have ruled. What the courts have ruled is that you can’t DELIBERATELY DECEIVE or threaten to harm people. In other words, I can yell fire in the theater if I honestly believe the theater to be on fire.

            I have idea … not the first clue … where you get the idea, “Free speech only matters when it’s the Right doing it.” ( Your use of the word “rabid” reveals a level of negative emotion that will make rational thought nearly impossible. ) That is, in fact, the exact opposite of the truth. We defend the Freedom of Speech of all. Of course we also defend the right of the listener to walk away and not listen to your speech.

            So, we would never want the government to prevent Colin Kapernick and the other players for showing such disrespect to the National Anthem. But, no one has any obligation to listen to whatever it is they’re saying either. So, people can stop watching NFL games if they want. Both parties have total freedom.

  3. Corey for President!! If only the man in the White House was as anti-racist as you. Instead, he defends racism and champions symbols of racism like the traitor flag and confederate statues.

    1. Ben is an interesting person. His blogs far and away generate the most comments. Patheos still run his old blogs.

      Racism is a co-opted topic. The majority of people in this country do not think of themselves as racist; and indeed they are not. The Left I believe are using this horrible issue as yet another ploy to disparage our President but mostly to put themselves on a pedestal so they can feel righteous at the expense of others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Books from BLC:

Previous
Next