Destroying American history because of racial politics

Destroying American history because of racial politics

Destroying American history because of racial politics

The wave of attacks against symbols of the civil war is undermining the history of this nation for political reasons and is driven by a form of reverse racism. Statues and markers recognizing icons of the South from the civil war are being targeted because of reverse racism and a sense of anti-White hatred

By Ray Hanania

My father and uncle are buried at Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s East Side. Christian immigrants from Jerusalem, they both fought honorably during World War II against Nazism, enlisting after Pearl Harbor.

My uncle died when I was four and my father died when I was 17. When they died and were buried, Oak Woods cemetery was a safe place to visit.

Back in the 1970s, I would go their often to visit their graves and the graves of my grandmother and cousins. But over the years, I don’t feel safe driving there because of my race.

I limit my trips there to once a year, and when my mother died, instead of burying her there next to my father, I felt it was safer to bury her in the west suburbs where I didn’t have to put up with the reverse racism that we’re not supposed to talk about.



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Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do remember driving through Oak Woods in the 1970s and, being a history buff, roaming through the southern section of the cemetery where several thousand Confederate soldiers were buried. The Confederate soldiers were not from Illinois but had been imprisoned nearby at Camp Douglas beginning in 1862 during the Civil War. They died during their imprisonment and some historians argue they were mistreated while at Camp Douglas in Chicago, one of the largest Civil War prisons in the country at the time.

Years later, a statue of the Confederate soldiers was erected near their graves, many of which have been desecrated and vandalized during recent years.

Last month, a group of protestors denouncing “racism,” demanded that the statue be removed. They claimed that the statue symbolized racism in much the same way that the Confederate or Rebel Flag symbolizes racism.

I guess if I were alive in the 1860s, I would have enlisted and fought with the Union to fight the Confederate rebel soldiers in part to keep the young America undivided and in part to oppose slavery and racial discrimination. I enlisted during the Vietnam War, even though I didn’t agree with the American war policy there, and even though I was disgusted by reports of American soldiers massacring Vietnamese civilians out of anger and revenge for the killing of their comrades. I enlisted because I was about to be drafted, so I decided to make a choice to serve in the U.S. Air Force rather than go into the Army.

I also know many I served with in the military didn’t agree with the war or with America’s foreign polices. But, we all served anyway.

I imagine, many of the Confederate soldiers imprisoned at Camp Douglas, felt the same about the Civil War. It wasn’t about slavery or the North versus the South. They were drafted in to service based on where they lived.

So why punish the Confederate soldiers buried at Oak Woods Cemetery? The statue, called “The Confederate Mound,” lists the names of all of the Confederate soldiers who are buried there. It’s a part of American history and it should remain as a reminder of a war that tore this country apart.

Let’s be honest, slavery wasn’t just an immoral American industry. It was practiced in Europe, the Middle East, and even by warring tribes in Africa.

And let’s be honest even more. Racism isn’t a one-way street anymore. It’s a two-way street. And oftentimes, White people are victims of racism, too.

Why tear down history? Tearing down and erasing history is bad politics. Instead of erasing racism, it feeds racism. It feeds distrust. It empowers segregation of our minds.

It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but we should talk about it. Instead of exploiting race to support or oppose extremists on either side, we should come together and recognize the unique history that created this country and be grateful, not angry, for what we have.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email mail him through his personal website at or at

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at

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