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Weekend Read: SPLC rallies on Super Bowl weekend to take down Confederate symbols

More than 100 million people will tune in to the Super Bowl in Atlanta tomorrow. We’ll be in Atlanta this weekend, too — but not for football.

At noon today, we’re hosting a rally in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park along with the NAACP, the Alliance for Black Lives and the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice. It’s part of our campaign to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces in Georgia.

In conjunction with today’s rally, we’re releasing a second edition of our report Whose Heritage?, which catalogues more than 1,700 publicly sponsored Confederate monuments, school and street names, holidays and other symbols. The overwhelming majority were erected or established as part of a calculated, pervasive strategy to support white supremacy and perpetuate a false narrative of the Civil War as something other than a defense of slavery.

This false narrative – of a noble endeavor fought to defend the South from Northern aggression – has persisted for over 150 years, even though the Confederacy’s founding fathers left no question about their intent.

“Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery and subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition,” declared Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens in his 1861 “Cornerstone speech.”

Propping up the myths about the “Lost Cause” are the many reminders of the Confederate military still found at county courthouses and other public spaces across the South. With 199 monuments and other symbols, Georgia trails only Virginia (247) and Texas (207) in the extent to which its government entities sponsor Confederacy iconography. Two Georgia counties, in fact, still fly the Confederate battle flag, a symbol long flaunted by white supremacists.

In Georgia, as in six other states, state law prohibits local governments from removing Confederate monuments.

We’re working to change that.

Until we can have an honest conversation about our country’s history of racial oppression and violence, reconciliation will continue to escape our grasp.

One place to start is by dismantling the symbols of a regime that supported the enslavement of African Americans. We believe that any momentum for change is going to start at the local level: at kitchen tables, in houses of worship, at PTA meetings — and at rallies like the one we’re hosting today.

Change requires the work of many. We live in a polarized country where Confederate monuments and their prevalence in the South keep us divided. They don’t have to. If you’re in Atlanta, join us in Piedmont Park at noon to tell the real stories behind these monuments and to have an honest conversation about why they need to come down.

And if you’re not in Atlanta, find out what’s in your community by taking a look at Whose Heritage?— because it’s about all of us, together.

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:

SPLC's Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning.