The General Assembly made the right call last week in advancing legislation that would grant Virginia localities the authority to remove war monuments, notably the dozens across the commonwealth that honor the Confederate cause and the pursuit of keeping slavery alive.
First – and most basically – of course localities should have the choice to decide for themselves whether a monument in their backyard is appropriate in the context of a more thoughtful, empathetic modern day society. Big-government opponents should be applauding the decision for the simple fact it puts power in the government closest to its citizens.
Now, onto the larger issue. Assuming the monument bills eventually secure the governor's signature, it will fall to Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors to pave a path to relocate the Confederate monument that has called the county courthouse grounds home since 1908, a year when at least 60 African Americans across the nation were lynched.
As we and other media outlets have reported time and time again, most Confederate monuments were erected in the throes of Jim Crow. They stood to intimidate black people, to remind them of the pervasive ignorance claiming African Americans were somehow less than.
We aren't calling for all monuments reflecting Confederate history to be removed or replaced. Some are indeed historically suitable.
But when it comes to Leesburg's offering, it's the fact the statue stands front and center at the county courthouse – a place that should be unassailable in the cause of justice and equality – that we can't get past. It's the local placement and context that forces our call for its removal.
As many have suggested, the statue could be moved to one of the numerous local Civil War sites. If historians and war aficionados want to take in the sculpture, they can. And if black and white Americans who find the monument being placed in the center of town offensive want to avoid it, they can do that, too.
It's not about erasing history. It's about respecting your neighbors and the generations of families that have been scarred by the lingering effects of America's original sin.
Lawmakers in the state Senate, where the monument measure passed 21-19, took care in crafting their legislation. The Associated Press reports the “Senate's bill imposes several hurdles not included in the House version that a local government must take before removing a monument.
“Under the measure, local leaders must first pass a resolution stating its intention to remove the monument, then request a report from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources with background about the person depicted and the circumstances under which the monument was established. The locality would then have to make that report public and then hold a public hearing before it could vote. A decision to remove a monument would require a 2/3 vote or could be sent to voters for a referendum.”
We applaud this deliberative approach, helping ensure monument removal isn't done willy nilly, with the snap of the fingers. We insist this issue should, in the end, be a community decision.
For now, we commend lawmakers in Richmond for taking the appropriate first step.