Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia declared his administration’s intent to dismantle and store away one of the most well-known Confederacy commemorations in the United States. Sited on the prominent Monument Avenue in Virginia’s capital of Richmond, the six-story-high statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was erected in 1890 as part of a state-wide campaign to glorify the oppression and hatred of the movement that lost the Civil War. In the wake of nationwide protests for justice and equality for Black people in America, sparked by the recent deaths by police violence of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, many states have been prompted to remove their Old South monuments. Northam’s decision was, too, influenced by current outcries.
“It’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it,” the governor stated in a speech yesterday. “In Virginia we no longer preach a false version of history, one that pretends the Civil War was about ‘state rights’ and not the evils of slavery…. And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people.” At the same briefing, General Lee’s great-great-grandson supported the monument’s removal, saying about his kin: “We have created an idol of white supremacy, of hatred, of racism, and rightfully so, out of the Confederacy. And we must do our best now to address that.”