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It’s about time

6/11/2020, 6 p.m.

It’s about time

That was our first reaction to Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s announcement last week that he is ordering the statue of Confederate traitor Robert E. Lee to be removed from Monument Avenue.

His announcement was quickly followed by Mayor Levar M. Stoney and a unanimous Richmond City Council saying they will vote to remove the other four monuments to Confederates from Monument Avenue as well as those in other city locations.

Their actions are long, long overdue.

The Free Press has demanded for nearly three decades that the statues honoring white supremacists must come down.

Nazi statues were destroyed and Nazi symbols were outlawed in Germany after World War II. Statues honoring British colonialists were moved to the outskirts of New Delhi following India’s independence. Even the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad was toppled and hauled off after the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.

Why did it take George Floyd’s death at the hands of a vicious white police officer in Minneapolis for top government officials in Virginia and Richmond to understand that the Confederate statues are racist and oppressive to African-Americans and people of color — like someone having a knee on our neck and they need to come down?

Like the video of Mr. Floyd crying out as he was pinned on the pavement for nearly 9 minutes, it is clear that something is horribly wrong with this state and this city to continually idolize and treasure men who fought a bloody war against the U.S. government in order to keep black people in human bondage — buying, selling, owning and abusing black men, women and children as if they were nothing more than cattle.

The graffiti that protesters sprayed on the statues gives these Confederate barbarians all the context they need before they are removed to museums, Civil War battlefields and cemeteries, historic homes or private collections where they can become teachable props instead of deities of a Lost Cause.

How swiftly the statues come down remains a question because of legal complexities. But it is clear the political will is there to bring them down as soon as possible.

At this moment in an election year, we deign not to look too closely at the motives of the politicians and corporate chiefs who have jumped on the justice train sweeping the country and the globe.

However, the conductors — thousands of passionate, energetic young people fueled by knowledge of right from wrong — are to be commended. They are woke and refuse to tolerate the foolishness of older generations and their years of inaction.

In Richmond, young people have taken matters into their own hands and pulled down statues of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham and Christopher Columbus — racist symbols of inhumanity, inequality and injustice.

We hope their energy will continue to translate into action at the ballot box in November and in local civic affairs — from City Council to the School Board to community meetings. We believe the events of the last two weeks have helped people of all ages and backgrounds to understand the need to recognize, vote out and eliminate the roadblocks to justice and usher in nonbiased, equitable policies, practices and laws regarding policing, health care, education, housing and jobs, just to name a few.