Commission blows its opportunity
7/13/2018, 5:39 p.m.
I have three quick thoughts about the Monument Avenue proposals.
First, all these assumptions that laws prevent us from moving the monuments are stupefying to me. The General Assembly statutes, born of racial intent, can be changed easily compared to the mammoth legal chains overcome by our civil rights heroes. A conscientious Richmond City Council can devise a path to removal that is both bold and reasonable.
Second, beware the promise of grand new monuments to more deserving citizens of our community. Richmond does not act quickly. Not one private dime has been raised for the deserving “Devil’s Half-Acre” site. I suggest our focus be on a slave education site in Shockoe Bottom, funded at least at the levels of the new Institute for Contemporary Art or the American Civil War Museum.
Finally, the commission yielded to those who remain nostalgic about relics in a time when discrimination and violence against black citizens remains a daily occurrence, and, if you listen to the tenor of public dialogue — not to mention the oppressive policies — the “arc of the moral universe” is being severely tested.
Are we looking at the world around us?
This is not about saving history. History thrives. The commission, sensing that the majority of white central Virginians are not yet ready to deal with the Confederate legacies of slavery and apartheid — the poverty and unequal opportunities in our city — has stepped back from an opportunity to show real respect for our neighbors.
We are here to improve lives. But we must demarcate the truths upon which our futures will be built. Those Confederate military leaders, standing boldly in the center of our city, do not represent who we are or who we want to be.