WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In 2015, the Wichita Park Board decided to remove a Confederate flag from the Veterans Memorial Park.
There remains an obelisk as a split memorial. Half the memorial honors the Union soldiers that fought in the Civil War. The other half honors Confederate soldiers.
KSN asked, in light of recent confederate monument controversies, if there has been any talk of removing or replacing the obelisk.
City Council member James Clendenin, who made it clear he does not speak for the entire council, agreed to comment.
“You know I think it’s important when we have issues like this come up in our community, that we start a very quick, rapid community dialogue and make sure that through that dialogue we’re paying attention to everybody,” said Clendenin. “This being in our city, this monument to the civil war, we need to have a community dialogue whether or not that’s appropriate for our city.”
Clendenin says he does not have an opinion on whether or not it should be removed, but he understands anything Confederate is controversial right now.
KSN talked with a history professor who says the dialogue about Confederate monuments is a reflection of changing times.
“Memorials are built for a lot of reason, but they are built to teach, right? They are built to teach you how to remember your past,” says Professor of History, Kelly McFall at Kansas Newman University. “But at the same time when you go to them you bring your own identity and your own perspectives to them. And so it’s the context that exists now in which the past is so highly contested. That makes these flash points at this particular time.”
McFall says his history classes are always lively. It’s because of his teaching style. He also says this moment in history has come about because of the convergence of a lot of things controversial.
“The past itself doesn’t change but the questions we ask and the perspectives we bring to that discussion do change,” says McFall. “Many of these memorials that are flash points now were built in specific points in American history where they were arguing about the past.”
McFall is also not offering an opinion on whether or not the monument in Wichita should come down. But some city leaders say they remain willing to listen.
“It’s extremely emotional,” says Clendenin on the Confederate controversy. “We have to make sure that dialogue is productive, it’s not divisive and polarizing, but that it actually brings us together for the common good of the city.”
There is another monument recognizing Confederate soldiers in Kansas. In Humbolt, in Southeast Kansas, there is a small monument in a city park that talks about a Confederate soldier who was shot in the park.