Confederate monuments are being torn down across the United States as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd continue. While the Confederate statues represent a step backwards, tearing them down will not end structural racism, says Anne Bailey, professor of history at Binghamton University, State University of New York and director of the Harriet Tubman Center for the Study of Freedom and Equity.

“Tearing down Confederate statues may actually do little to further the goal of ending the legacy of slavery. It will not bring about systemic change or end notions of white supremacy or eradicate structural racism,” says Bailey. 

Bailey says that the more difficult work in dismantling the legacy of slavery will involve ending the byproducts of slavery, such as mass incarceration and educational inequalities for children of color.

“The hope is that those protesters will channel their zeal and apply it to these thorny and persistent problems. There is no easy fix,” says Bailey. “But if and when that fix does come, 100 years from now, America will be remembered not only for its technological advances – such as its computers, its robots or its driverless cars - but for its commitment to human rights.”

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