(PoliticalLookout.com)- After years of debate, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced Thursday that the city of Richmond would remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee “as soon as possible.”
“Today, we’re here to be honest about our past and talk about our future. We have to confront where we’ve been in order to shape where we’re going,” Northam said. “In Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of many of them.
“Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now — so we’re taking it down. I know some will protest … and I know many people will be angry.”
Removing the Confederate statues and monuments to controversial figures has been going on for a few years now, but has ramped up in the past few weeks as protests rage across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
An obelisk to Confederate troops was taken down in Birmingham, Alabama, earlier this week. A statue honoring former Philadelphia police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo was also removed this week. Rizzo was divisive and rose to prominence in the late 1960s.
Ironically, Northam himself has found himself in the middle of racist controversy. Last year, a picture surfaced that showed him in blackface. He initially apologized for being in the photo that way, but then reversed course and said it wasn’t him.
Now, Northam is trying to take the high road as calls for equality and a dramatic change to policing in this country happen.
While most people are in favor of taking down monuments like the one in Richmond, some think it taints the history of this country. Others worry that it will cause much more clashing between the far-left and the far-right.
Only three years ago, white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That prompted some Confederate-era memorials to come down.
The state of Virginia owned the Robert E. Lee statue, so it had the ability to remove it. It will be placed in storage until they decide what to do with it. The other monuments along Monument Avenue are owned by the city, and therefore, they will have the ability to decide what to do with them.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney attended the press announcement with Northam, and echoed the governor’s words, saying:
“It’s time to put an end to the Los Cause and fully embrace the righteous cause. It’s time to replace the racist symbols of oppression and inequality — symbols that have literally dominated our landscape. It’s time to heal, ladies and gentlemen.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said removing the statue was “a step in the right direction” to roll back systemic racism and the “remaining vestiges of Jim Crow in our Commonwealth.” As Lamont Bagby, the Caucus’ chairman, said:
“The Lee statue was a constant reminder to Black Virginians of racism, dehumanization and hate that exists and was prevalent throughout our history.”