7/13/2018, 5 p.m.
Those are the best words to describe the Monument Avenue Commission and their weak-kneed recommendations that will do little to move Richmond beyond the continuing grasp of Confederate sympathizers.
The multiracial, 10-person panel of academics, City Council members, arts people and community members appointed by Mayor Levar M. Stoney had a real opportunity to move Richmond from under the pall cast by the grandiose Monument Avenue statues that grossly honor racist, white supremacists who turned against the U.S. government and spilled the blood of thousands in order to keep black people in human bondage.
But the commission blew it.
Instead of recommending the Confederate statues’ removal, the commission kowtowed to bigoted interests that have proven once again that they still have a stranglehold on this city.
In short, the commission’s report issued July 2 recommends that of the five towering statues along Monument Avenue, only that of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, be removed.
Their rationale: “Of all the statues, this one is most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment. Davis was not from Richmond or Virginia.”
We don’t care where Confederates Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury are from. All of the statues, which started going up in the decades after Reconstruction, were designed to intimidate freed people of color and to remind them of their subservience and inferior place in Richmond and the South that continued to deny their basic human rights under the laws of Jim Crow.
Even while acknowledging that the statues continue to serve as symbols for white supremacists and their violent and bloody rallies, such as the nation sadly observed during last summer’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, the Monument Avenue Commission hides behind the hooped skirts of history and education and recommended that signs be added to put the statues in context.
There is no amount of signage, or words or mobile apps or tourism videos to run on the city website and in hotel rooms — yes, all recommendations of the commission — that can balance, blot out or absolve the centuries of pain and injustice brought by the people, ideas and institutions of slavery and Jim Crow that these monstrosities represent.
Nor can adding a statue to the bravery of the U.S. Colored Troops who fought during the Civil War to free black people from slavery — yet another recommendation of the commission — rid us of the terrible reminder the remaining statues present.
It is not complicated. If Richmond is to move forward, the statues must go.
We call on Mayor Stoney, the Richmond Planning Commission and City Council to take the bold and right-minded action commission members were too meek to recommend: Take all of the statues down.
Unlike the commission, we are not concerned about whether a museum has the financial or spatial ability to accept such large statues should they be removed. We believe neo-Confederates and history lovers will pony up what is needed to move the statues to a museum, battlefield, Confederate cemetery or someone’s backyard that would be a more appropriate place from which to revere the past.
We remain focused on Richmond’s future and what we want our children, grandchildren, tourists, new corporations and residents and future generations to see, feel and understand when they drive or stroll down Monument Avenue. And that is a row of statues that publicly honor the honorable, not a sordid Lost Cause.