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Small $ for a moral education

10/27/2017, 6:52 a.m.
With increasingly tragic results for our culture and our future, we witness on an almost daily basis the use of ...
Chuck Richardson

Commentaries

Chuck Richardson

With increasingly tragic results for our culture and our future, we witness on an almost daily basis the use of Twitter-launched diversions from President Trump designed to divert our attention from the real issues and crises of our time. This is an old trick, used by card sharks, magicians, circus imprimaturs, con men and the occasional politician.

Now comes L. Douglas Wilder, the former governor and Richmond mayor, entering the Monument Avenue fray by advancing the diversionary and specious notion that the choice before us is now a question of education or removing the statues of Confederates from Monument Avenue. His statements attempt to redirect public attention away from the real issue at hand — the gravely immoral symbolism of these statues — and to refocus it to a false choice of either education or the removal of the statues. This is nonsense.

The decision to remove the statues, which glorify Confederates who fought to perpetuate the abomination of human slavery, is utterly irrelevant to the availability of educational funds. These issues are no more related to one other than they are to a conflict between funds to repair streets versus improvement of the jails, except to the extent that there is enormous value to our children’s education that their removal would provide.

Richmond City Council and Mayor Levar M. Stoney should maintain an unwavering commitment to public education and they should not be influenced one way or the other by the question of the cost for the removal of the statues. It is ludicrous to assert that we care less about our children because we choose to do what is proper by raising a moral question of right and wrong. When these costly statues were built, the education of children was the priority of the advocates of those same statues. Indeed, these advocates found a way to finance education and to build the statues. Do not imply that we are unable to take them down and educate our children as well. We love our children no less and must come to value dignity and self-respect as well.

But there is the larger question of the corrupting daily education our children receive by seeing the glorification of men who sought to enslave an entire race. This is not an issue confined solely to the impact these monuments have on black children. As a white friend recently pointed out, the venom that emerges from the glorification of these idols to a war to preserve slavery extends to white children as well. When I asked him to elaborate, he pointed out that his son had reached the age where soldiers and swords were symbols of strength and goodness. Yet, how could he explain the goodness in what these men stood and fought for?

This wedge issue of education versus statue removal cannot divide and confuse the community. The issue is not either/or, but a straightforward question of right or wrong, a question that first should be answered yes or no.