I cannot answer that question because, as I have told my students, I don’t know what it is like to be black, and believing imagination equals experience is the height of arrogance. So let’s trust black people when many say these symbols of the past are insulting, humiliating and otherwise injurious.

If racism were an extinct social artifact, then it might be easier to quietly acknowledge it along with the accomplishments of our democracy as embodied together in the flag Betsy Ross sewed to represent the birth of a profoundly flawed nation. But racism lingers, and right now we are going through a period of renewed and intensified animosities. If we have to shelve some shoes, put away the old flags, get rid of a few statues and change some holidays in order to recognize everyone’s humanity, then that is the price a still flawed nation ought to be willing to pay.

When we end racism and sexism and xenophobia, then those who wish can freely admire the past without implying anyone’s inferiority.