Letter to the Editor

   Written by on September 14, 2017 at 10:36 am

Take the racist statues down

Reprinted with permission, Richmond Times-Dispatch:

I write with a simple proposal for a middle ground in Virginia’s debate on Civil War statues. I agree with most Virginians and most Americans that we should not be tearing down our statues; however, there is one category of statues that I have long thought should be taken down as a matter of justice. There were statues that were put up after Brown v. Board of Education — the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional — for the sole purpose of declaring defiance.

Those statues were put up with the specific intent of intimidating black citizens and declaring the racist defiance of those in power at the time. It was Virginia’s political machine of that era — the Byrd machine — that advanced “massive resistance,” pushing it to the extreme of shutting down rather than integrating public schools. And Harry Byrd’s statue stands on our state Capitol grounds even today.

When I served as a state senator and walked by that statue, I often shook my head at its offensiveness.

Perhaps now is the time to take that statue down, too.

It seems a reasonable middle ground to agree that statues put up not for historical reasons but for reasons of racial intimidation should as a matter of justice be taken down. We should do this as an affirmative statement that as a community we reject the racism and intimidation that inspired those anti-Brown statues. It would be an opportunity for racial reconciliation in our community.

That’s it. It’s not complicated.

Some will say this isn’t enough, a small number may say it’s too much, but surely the vast majority of us can agree to take down the anti-Brown v. Board of Education statues and remove Byrd’s statue from state Capitol grounds. These give us the chance to go forward on an aspect of this debate upon which we can overwhelmingly agree, and that’s never a bad thing.

Ken Cuccinelli.


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