I Walked Past A Confederate Monument For 15 Years And Never Noticed

The discovery of the memorial in Hollywood Forever Cemetery proves there really is no racial nirvana.

For the past 15 years, I've visited a cemetery in the heart of Hollywood at least once a week. With so little green space in the city, Angelenos like me treat Hollywood Forever Cemetery like a public park. When I need a break, there’s nothing like a 10-minute stop to walk among the headstones of iconic movie stars like Tyrone Power and Judy Garland or Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell. I’ve left a red-lipstick kiss on the stone marking silent-film legend Rudolph Valentino’s grave and picnicked with friends during the popular weekly movie held on Saturday nights during the summer. And it’s all surrounded by the vibrant peacocks that roam the grounds.

The cemetery is everything that you imagine Hollywood to be: celebrity-obsessed, naturally beautiful, and pretty damn eccentric. So on Tuesday, when a friend sent me an email telling me that there was a Confederate monument in the small privately-owned cemetery, my first thought was, “Wait, what?”

A Confederate monument in Los Angeles, the West Coast bastion of bleeding-heart liberalism? A city where people happily slap “Coexist” stickers on their cars bumpers and get made fun of for being aggro in the Whole Foods parking lot?

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]This is the palm-tree nirvana where vandals painted the n-word on LeBron James’ home.[/quote]

Look past the city’s shiny surfaces, and you’ll recall that this is also the place that burned twice because of racism, during the Watts riots in 1965 and again during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. This is the palm-tree nirvana where vandals painted the n-word on LeBron James’ home in May and where a 10-year-old black girl was harassed at school for years and told she looks “like a dead roach” because of her dark skin. This is the city where I got called a black bitch at a public pool because I wouldn’t let a white woman touch my hair and where my academically gifted son was the only kid in his class accused of plagiarizing an essay because it was “too good.”

But I know this cemetery. It's like a second home to me. I wanted to see the monument myself before it was taken down — was it in some obscure corner of the cemetery that I'd never ventured to?

A peacock on top of a grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. All images by Liz Dwyer/GOOD.

By the time I got to Hollywood Forever early Wednesday morning, the monument — which, it turned out, had been just steps away from the cemetery entrance — was already gone. Cemetery workers removed it at around 3 a.m. A square patch of green turf had already been installed in the spot where the monument had stood since 1925. It was jarring to realize that I'd walked right past the monument hundreds of times over the past 15 years and didn't even notice what had been in plain sight all along.

Isn’t that how racism works in America, though? Sometimes it’s there in plain sight — a group of torch-wielding white supremacists marching last Friday night on the campus of the University of Virginia or using a vehicle as a weapon to kill 32-year-old Heather Heyer a day later in Charlottesville. Other times, we don’t see what’s there — including a 7-foot-tall monument honoring Confederate soldiers that’s been sitting in plain sight for 90 years — until someone else points it out and demands change.

An op-ed published Aug. 4 in the Los Angeles Times by Kevin Waite, an American history professor at Durham University in the U.K., brought the monument and Los Angeles’ intimate connection with the Confederacy to the public’s attention.

At the time of the Civil War, wrote Waite, “migrants from the slave states constituted a majority of Los Angeles County’s white population. And many of them sided with their native South.” Only two people from around Los Angeles enlisted in the Union army, but about 250 people went to fight for the Confederacy.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Los Angeles was the westernmost outpost in a rebellion that spanned the continent.[/quote]

Waite details how after the Civil War, KKK members terrorized and killed Chinese immigrants. During Reconstruction, California refused to uphold civil rights for black folks, and disillusioned Southern secessionists flocked to Los Angeles. Roughly 30 of them are buried in Hollywood Forever.

The grave of Confederate soldier Robert Bradford Warren at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Waite wrote that the monument in Hollywood Forever should be left alone so that we can stop fantasizing that racism doesn’t exist on the West Coast:

“It serves as a needed corrective to a self-congratulatory strain in the stories Californians tell about themselves. Angelenos might be tempted to view the current controversy over Confederate symbols, and the ugly racial politics they represent, as a distinctly Southern problem. But a visit to Hollywood’s cemetery plot and some historical perspective teach us otherwise. Los Angeles was the westernmost outpost in a rebellion that spanned the continent.”

Many Angelenos, it turns out, disagreed. In the aftermath of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Los Angeles resident Taylor Nicholson started a petition to Tyler Cassity, the owner of Hollywood Forever, and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, demanding that the Confederate monument at Hollywood Forever be taken down.

“History has looked back and determined the Confederacy's racist and bigoted actions as traitorous — there's no reason to celebrate them or remember them fondly through monuments of any kind,” Nicholson wrote. “Removing such a divisive monument from our city is imperative. It is far past time to keep traces of white supremacists where they belong — in history books.”

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]It is far past time to keep traces of white supremacists where they belong — in history books.[/quote]

Nearly 2,000 people signed the petition in three days, and the word about the monument began to go viral on social media. Someone scrawled the word “No” on it on Tuesday. Late Tuesday night, the news broke that the cemetery and the owners of the monument, the Long Beach Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, had decided to remove it within the next 24 hours.

However the monument wasn’t removed because folks recognized that symbols of the Confederacy are, as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a speech in May, “erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.”

Indeed, a spokeswoman for the organization who refused to be identified told the Los Angeles Times that people who wanted it taken down are “erasing history.” Then she gave some Trump-style “all sides” commentary. “We weep for the people who are involved in all of the things that are going on in our country — on both sides. We find hatred among white supremacists, we find hatred among Black Lives Matter,” she said.

The red arrow shows where the Confederate monument stood.

As I stood on the spot where the monument had been, I took in the names on the surrounding graves, people like Robert Bradford Warren, whose stone proudly tells us of his participation in the Confederate States Army. Then I walked through the cemetery for a few minutes to the monument dedicated to Hattie McDaniel, the first black actor to win an Academy Award. When McDaniel died in 1952, it was reportedly her dying wish to be buried in Hollywood Forever, but the cemetery was racially segregated, and the owner at the time, Jules Roth, refused to allow it. The stone memorial to her that stands in the cemetery today wasn’t erected until 1999.

The memorial to Hattie McDaniel erected in 1999.

On my way back to my car, I stopped a white man walking through the park and asked him if he’d be willing to be interviewed about the monument’s removal. “You won’t like what I have to say,” he told me. He refused to give his name but said that the monument should be left in the cemetery. “The right and the left, they’re both going insane and tearing this country up,” he told me before walking off.

He made me think of my trip early last year to Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in northern Los Angeles County. The site was a stand-in as various intergalactic locations during several episodes of the “Star Trek” television series and served as Transylvania in the 1931 film “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi. Everyone in my family was thrilled to go, but the closer we got the park, the less excited we felt. Here we were, a black family, 40 miles outside of the city, and we were passing house after house with Confederate flags flying out front.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Sparking fear and warning black folks that they’re not welcome is why these symbols of the Confederacy were created.[/quote]

After two hours scrambling up and down rock formations at the park, we decided to grab lunch in a small town nearby. When we arrived in the town, my husband was so scared, he refused to get out of the vehicle. I, being lighter-skinned and a woman, was elected to go scope out whether it was safe for him and my two teen sons to come out of the car. Sparking fear and warning black folks that they’re not welcome is why these symbols of the Confederacy were created. As Angelenos now know, these symbols exist coast to coast.

How many residences in Los Angeles County — or the rest of California for that matter — are home to people who fly the Stars and Bars? Or who would fly it if they didn’t think their neighbors would talk smack about them? Data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that California has more hate groups — 97 of them — than any other state, so it might be more people than folks realize.

The Confederate monument is gone from Hollywood Forever, but don’t get it twisted. There is no magic pixie dust wafted over Los Angeles that makes it immune to the sickness of America. We’re in the thick of this fight against racism right along with the rest of the nation.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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