Virginia to remove Robert E. Lee statue from state capital

RICHMOND, Virginia – After more than a year of legal wrangling, the country’s largest Confederate monument – a rising statue of Southern...


RICHMOND, Virginia – After more than a year of legal wrangling, the country’s largest Confederate monument – a rising statue of Southern Civil War general Robert E. Lee – will be hoisted from its pedestal in downtown Richmond , Va., Wednesday morning.

The statue of Lee was erected in 1890, the first of six Confederate monuments – symbols of white power that dotted the main boulevard in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. On Wednesday, it will be the last to be retired, opening up the history of this city for all of its inhabitants to write.

“This city belongs to all of us, not just some of us,” said David Bailey, who is black and whose non-profit organization, Arrabon, help churches in their work of racial reconciliation. “Now we can try to determine what happens next. We are creating a new legacy.

The country has periodically battled monuments from its Confederate past, including in 2017, after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., Sparked efforts to bring them down – and to put them. Richmond, too, withdrew some after the murder of George Floyd last year, in a sudden operation that took many by surprise. But General Lee’s statue has endured, mainly due to its complicated legal status. It was specified last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia. On Monday, Ralph Northam, the state governor, who called for his impeachment last year, announced he would finally do so.

His removal, scheduled for Wednesday morning, will mark the end of the era of Confederate monuments in the city that is perhaps best known to them. Monument Avenue, the grassy boulevard where many of them stood, was a proud part of the city’s architecture and a coveted address. But in recent years, as the city has diversified, demographically and politically, more and more of its residents have started to question memorials. Now, as the last statue is taken down, many interviewees in this once-conservative southern town said they may have disagreed over the past few years, but now their removal feels right to them. .

“I’ve moved on,” said Irv Cantor, a moderate Democrat from Richmond, who is white and whose home is on Monument Avenue. “I naively thought that we could keep these statues and add new ones to show the real story, and we would be fine.”

But he said that in recent years, significant events involving race, from the election of the first black president to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, to the murder of Mr. Floyd last summer and the protests that followed, have left him showed that monuments were fundamentally in conflict with fairness in America.

“Now I understand the resentment people have towards these monuments,” said Mr. Cantor, who is 68 years old. “I think they can’t exist anymore. “

The battle over the memory of the Civil War is as old as the war itself. At its root, it is a power struggle over who has the right to decide how history is remembered. It is painful because it is the most traumatic event the nation has ever known, and which is still, to some extent, untreated, in large part because the South has come up with its own version. of war – that it was a noble struggle for states. ‘rights, not slavery.

The violent rally in Charlottesville and the murder of Mr. Floyd ignited the most recent public conversation. And in some ways, the needle seemed to be moving: Across the country last year, Confederate statues were either demolished by protesters or removed by the government. Americans have swept through towns and villages, demanding racial justice and a more truthful version of history. But resistance has come too, and more recently has taken the form of a sprawling debate over critical race theory, which argues that historical patterns of racism are rooted in law and other modern institutions, and what side of America’s history is being told.

May be no city represents America’s messy moment on the run better than Richmond. It is marked by deep racial inequalities, the result of generations of discrimination, in which the votes of black residents were diluted and black homeowners were unable to obtain loans. But decades of reconciliation work dating back to the 1990s have made the city more receptive than many in the South to the removal of its Confederate monuments., those who did the job argued.

“Richmond has come a long way,” said Reverend Sylvester Turner, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church in the Richmond neighborhood of East View, which has worked on racial reconciliation in the city for 30 years. “We started to peel the crusts. When you do that, you feel a lot of pain and a lot of pushback, and I think we are there. We are faced with many unhealed wounds that are below the surface. “

Even so, the monuments were central to Richmond’s identity and were supported by powerful locals, and the fact that they came down seemed to surprise almost everyone.

“If you had told me the monuments were going to fall, I would have thought someone would blow up Richmond first before anyone let that happen,” Mr Bailey said. “I think it’s a modern day miracle.”

What remains is a city littered with empty pedestals, a sort of symbol of America’s unfinished racial affair that is particularly characteristic of Richmond. This landscape – and the political upheavals that accompanied it – also caused a backlash.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Virginia to remove Robert E. Lee statue from state capital
Virginia to remove Robert E. Lee statue from state capital
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