Mack Williams: Carve OutKast Into Stone Mountain

Following the Charleston church shooting in 2015, there was a renewed focus on Confederate symbols throughout the South. The removal of statues and paintings from public spaces became, once again, a hot topic of discussion. Tennessee’s governor supported removing the Confederate flag from specialty license plates. Bree Newsome Bass memorably climbed a flagpole at the South Carolina State House to tear down the one flying there. It felt like some good change was finally starting to happen w/r/t removing lingering reminders of the Confederacy.

Amidst this societal upheaval, my thoughts turned to my home state of Georgia. More specifically to Stone Mountain, the location of the world’s largest Confederate memorial—a bas-relief sculpture depicting Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, carved across 17,000 square feet of rock. What could possibly be done about that?

To me, the solution was as clear then as it is now. We should add something to the sculpture to counterbalance the Confederate leaders on horseback.

We should carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

So, 2015 Mack did what any goodhearted doofus on the internet might do—I started a petition. It went somewhat viral, eventually gaining thousands of signatures and a slew of mediaattention. Several times in the years since—coinciding with various moments in our hellscape of a reality when white supremacy was back in the news—the petition would go viral once again.

Fast forward nearly eight years, and though much has changed in our nation, the Confederate carving on Stone Mountain remains untouched. I say it’s well past time for that to change. I say that now, more than ever, we should carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

It’s simple, really. If the Confederate carving divides Georgians, I can’t think of anything that would unite them quite like OutKast. They are universally beloved legends of Georgia music.

The Peach State boasts a truly bonkers CVS-receipt-length list of all-time great musical acts: R.E.M., Migos, Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, Ray Charles, the B-52s, Ludacris, Neutral Milk Hotel, Gucci Mane, Attractive Eighties Women, Little Richard, and countless more. But none of those acts can match the excitement, the iconic status, the pure, unadulterated electricity of OutKast. (Okay, maybe Little Richard can. If someone wants to carve Little Richard into Stone Mountain, that would be cool as well.) Imagine dancing on the grass below a newly re-animated Lasershow Spectacular while bangers like “Rosa Parks” and “B.O.B.” blast into the summer night.

I’m sorry, Stonewall Jackson, I am for real. And I think we should carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

Some might argue that we don’t need to change the sculpture. That it represents heritage not hate. On one hand, are you kidding me? But on the other, perhaps slightly more charitable hand, I’d say those are the words of an ignorant, misguided soul. Anyone who examines the history of Stone Mountain’s Confederate memorial carving can only come to one conclusion—its 1972 creation was motivated by racism, white supremacy, and a sad dedication to “Lost Cause” mythology. (In fact, a brand new documentary from the Atlanta History Center does a wonderful job explaining this in depth.) 

Stone Mountain is the birthplace of the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan, and that does not represent the great state of Georgia. I—and I know I’m not alone here—am inspired by a different heritage, one that began not atop Stone Mountain in 1915, but “a couple of years ago on Headland and Delowe.”

To celebrate the true heritage of Georgia, we should carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

My haters will tell you that the sculpture is just too big. That it would be impossible to remove or change it. Well, it’s certainly huge—there’s no debating that. But removing it is possible. We could just blow it off the side of the mountain if we want to. (And perhaps we should!) But that would take a tremendous amount of money and time.

There are some cheaper alternatives. BeltLine mastermind Ryan Gravel has suggested officials stop cleaning the sculpture and simply let nature take over. First of all, did you know they clean it!? Imagine mud and leaves accumulating in Robert E. Lee’s ears and eye sockets, trees and shrubs growing out of Jefferson Davis’ nose, natural erosion slowly polishing Stonewall Jacksons’ horse into a memory. The slow transition of an embarrassing, racist history into glorious, beautiful nature? It would probably be pretty satisfying, honestly. 

But there’s a better solution that honors Georgia’s real culture: We should carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

Georgia law specifically states that the carving “shall never be altered, removed, concealed, or obscured in any fashion” as a tribute to the “bravery and heroism” of Confederate soldiers who fought for their “cause.” (Quick reminder: their cause was slavery!) But truly, all we need is enough passionate state legislators to repeal or change the law. While this is pretty unlikely in the near term, it can certainly be done.

If there’s anything you take away from How I’d Fix Atlanta, let it be this: all laws, rules, regulations, and edicts are, at the end of the day, just some words said by some Important Human. All you have to do is get some other Important Human to say some other words and then those original words no longer matter.

It’s worth considering, as Dan Kois wrote in an excellent pandemic-era essay, “just how much of contemporary American life is bullshit, with power structures built on punishment and fear as opposed to our best interest.” Governments and corporations and politicians find reasons to change and remove regulations all the time, and it’s often “a signal that there was never any good reason for [them] to exist in the first place.”

Remember those two paragraphs above when someone tells you that something good can’t be done. Remember that we can—we should, we must—carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

When I originally created my petition in 2015, I was being flippant. It was satire. A joke. But the ensuing attention and comments I received actually sold me on the idea. The Confederate Memorial carving on Stone Mountain is anything but a joke. The 2016 Presidential election wasn’t a joke. The murder of countless Black people by a broken and violent police system is not a joke. White supremacy is not a joke.

I am a white man born in Georgia. I am a descendant of enslavers and Confederate soldiers. Perhaps I’m not qualified to speak on this matter at all. There are loads of people suggesting ideas for how we might fix Stone Mountain in a way that serves and honors all citizens of the Peach State. I hope that one day one of their ideas takes hold, erasing the hateful tribute currently carved into that glorious monadnock.

But until that day, I will continue imagining a world where all Georgians come together as one to carve OutKast into Stone Mountain.

Mack Williams

Mack Williams is an artist and animator from Blackshear, GA. His work can be seen on shows like Archer, Sesame Street, The Problem with Jon Stewart, and Saturday Night Live, to name a few. He is a former ATLien, currently living in Astoria, Queens. He enjoys barbecue, pro wrestling, and Georgia Bulldogs football.