Let the future begin

12/9/2021, 6 p.m.
We commend the foresight and action of both outgoing Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney when ...

We commend the foresight and action of both outgoing Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney when it comes to the huge stone pedestal left on Monument Avenue after the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The governor announced early this week that the graffiti-tagged pedestal will be taken down before he leaves office on Jan. 15, and the circle of land it sits on will be turned over to city ownership, as requested by the mayor.

We are encouraged by this turn of events. Here’s why:

Removing the pedestal and turning the land over to the City of Richmond makes it more difficult for the new Republican administration, led by Gov.-elect and Trump acolyte Glenn A. Youngkin, and the Johnny Reb, white supremacist forces within the new Republican-controlled House of Delegates to try to put the Lee statue back up.

It’s important that our current leadership prevent this small patch of grass on Monument Avenue from becoming the next civil war battleground.

We are seeing across Virginia and the nation anti-Black, anti- people of color elements rise up against teaching the truth about America’s unflattering past. We are in the midst of a backlash – or “blacklash” – against the gains Black people, Latinos and other marginalized groups have made in this nation in voting rights, equal rights, gay rights and women’s rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution. We are seeing a rise in hate groups and use of the Confederate flag.

It is no stretch to believe that these elements – in their new-found control over state government—would push to return the state-owned statue of Lee to what they consider its “rightful place” over the city. Returning the statue would be a symbol to white supremacists and haters across the nation that they are in control and the clock will be turned back to what they consider a less threatening way of life.

We would not be surprised if a legislative attempt is made to return the smaller statues of Confederates and segregationists to the halls and grounds of the State Capitol building. The Republicans may have the votes to do that, but it will be harder to restore the Lee statue if the pedestal is gone and the land on Monument Avenue no longer is owned by the state.

We were glad to get rid of the 12-ton, 21-foot-high behemoth of a statue erected in 1890 to lionize a white supremacist and traitor who led an army in bloody warfare against the United States in an effort to keep Black people in human bondage in Virginia and the South.

The Lee statue was there to remind everyone — especially Black people — of the surviving social order that relegated people of color to a subservient and unequal status going forward in the former capital of the Confederacy, despite the fact that the South lost the Civil War.

While the 40-foot-tall graffiti-tagged granite pedestal became a rich and important symbol of psychological freedom and change during the empowering social justice protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis Police, let this space on Monument Avenue be cleared of all tangible symbols of a racist and harmful past.

Let the people find a more equal, fitting, unifying and forward-thinking way to use the public space that will uplift all. Let the future begin.