(January 8, 2019) Two months ago Smithsonian Magazine published a misleading article claiming that a total of seven hundred Confederate memorials have received “at least” $40 million in taxpayer funding over the past decade. Even by the authors’ own accounting, a mere five memorials accounted for over 80% of the total. And over half of the 80% was used to restore the Jefferson Davis National Historic Landmark on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Except for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I am unaware of any organization that has challenged the article’s one-sided analysis. Nonetheless, several points merit consideration.
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First, the Smithsonian itself obtains about $640 million of its $960 million annual budget from the federal government. Given that two-thirds of their budget is a taxpayer subsidy, Smithsonian managers should feel obliged to provide a balanced analysis. But, as noted below, they don’t.
Second, during the past eighteen months Smithsonian has published at least eight articles, in its magazine or on its website, criticizing Confederate statues. Most explicitly state or imply that such memorials are inherently racist as are their present-day supporters. In contrast, the Smithsonian has yet to publish a single article defending the statues.
Third, for purposes of their spending analysis the Smithsonian authors include homes, parks, museums, libraries, and cemeteries, as well as statues, under the rubric: “Confederate memorials.” But taxpayer funds spent at a memorial such as Georgia’s Stone Mountain are used almost entirely for park services. They include the maintenance of biking and hiking trails and other recreational facilities. Little, if any, is spent on the stone carvings of Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis, which were completed nearly fifty years ago.
If you want to urge Smithsonian to publish at least one article presenting an argument in favor of Confederate statues you may wish to write:
Dr. David Skorton
Two Massachusetts Avenue, N. E.
Washington, D. C. 20002