Response to Jess R. Phelps & Jessica Owley, Etched in Stone: Historic Preservation Law and Confederate Monuments
Jess Phelps and Jessica Owley present an informative and useful account of how historic preservation laws might complicate or prevent efforts to remove Confederate monuments. Many lawyers and activists will be grateful for this guidance. However, Phelps and Owley overstate the burdens historic preservation laws impose on such removal and ignore the benefits of the administrative processes they provide. They claim that our preservation laws embody a “relatively frozen approach to cultural protection” and that heritage preservation should not be “etched in stone.” While preservation restrictions should reflect greater cultural dynamism than may be common now, they already facilitate changing perceptions of significant heritage to an impressive extent. Failing to recognize this inadvertently plays into an ignorant and hostile narrative about preservation law as elitist and undemocratic.