Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) said Thursday that the state will be removing a six-story statue of Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond, the Confederate Civil War general, amid protests over accused police racism in the death of George Floyd last week.
“We put things on pedestals when we want people to look up,” Northam said. “Think of the message this sends.”
Northam pointed out that General Lee did not want a statue when he was alive after the war was over. “I think it wise not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavor to obliterate the marks of civil strife,” Northam quoted Lee as saying.
The statue will be placed in storage until a “more appropriate” location can be identified, The Hill reported.
Richmond mayor agrees
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney agreed with the statue’s removal and said he plans to introduce legislation to remove the other four confederate monuments in the area as well. The Lee statue is on state property, while the other four are on city property.
“We have two pandemics in our country right now: COVID-19 and racism,” Stoney said at the shared press conference with Northam. “One is six months old, the other is 400 years old. Both are lethal, especially for black and brown people.”
“I’m no historian, but I strongly believe we have to confront where we’ve been in order to get where we’re going,” Northam added.
Protesters tagged the statue’s base with grafitti during protests, but it was too large for them to topple like protesters in Philadephia did to a statue of Frank Rizzo, who many say had racist views. The mayor removed the Rizzo statue following the protests.
Monument Avenue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark District, NBC News noted. Celebrations in honor of Lee’s birthday and Confederate-themed events are held there each year, and the location is a tourist attraction for history buffs.
While preserving history has been used as a reason not to remove Confederate statues around the U.S., it seems to me that our history will not be lost without statues that celebrate those who wanted to perpetuate slavery as heroes.
If removing Confederate statues sends the message that America is moving into a new era where racism is actively put down as evil, I say take them down tomorrow.
Nobody needs a statue to remember U.S. Civil War history, and it will take away one more thing that people of color can point to as showing that America is a racist country. That messaging is entirely appropriate for where the country is today, and while it won’t change any policy, it might help to show where the majority of America’s hearts truly are right now.