Commentary

Virginia makes progress on dealing with Confederate monuments

The “Silent Sam” statue prior to its removal from the campus of UNC Chapel Hill

The newish Democratic majorities in the Virginia General Assembly just keep on creating new examples for North Carolina to follow. The Old Dominion has already expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and passed legislation to protect LGBT residents from discrimination and decriminalize marijuana. Now comes word of progress on the vexing subject of Confederate monuments.

This is from a story by reporter Ned Oliver of the Virginia Mercury:

“Cities and counties around Virginia will be allowed to remove the Confederate monuments they own and maintain under legislation the General Assembly sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday.

The vote comes two and a half years after a fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville around a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which the city was blocked from taking down under a state law protecting war memorials….

New Democratic majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate this year broadly agreed local governments should be able to decide where and how they memorialize the Confederacy, but differed on the process localities should have to go through before taking action.

The Senate had proposed a 100-plus day process that included a mandatory review by the state’s Department of Historic Resources at the localities’ expense. It also pushed to require local governing boards to approve any changes by a supermajority two-thirds vote, a threshold Charlottesville would not have met with its 2017 vote on the issue.

Lawmakers in the House opposed those requirements and ultimately were successful in negotiating final language that requires only a 30-day notice ahead of a public hearing. If localities choose, they can also hold a local referendum on the question.”

While the new, soon-to-be law seems unlikely to be a final solution to the challenge posed by monuments that were often erected decades after the Civil War as celebrations of white supremacy, it would be a vast improvement over North Carolina’s 2015 law that purports to bar the removal of such monuments.

As a Charlottesville lawmaker, Del. Sally Hudson, said of the new legislation:

“It’s a huge step, but it’s just one more step in a long process. In the short term what it means is this decision making will go back to Charlottesville where it belongs.”

Let’s hope North Carolina legislators muster the courage to consider similar legislation in the session that commences in April.

2 Comments


  1. Bob Vasile

    March 12, 2020 at 6:54 am

    They should keep the statues but change the text on the bronze plaque. Something like this “ These men fought a treasonous war against the United States of America. They believed the had a right and a mandate from God to reap financial benefits from the enslavement and brutal exploitation of millions of African slaves brought here to America – on and on !” BV, Durham, NC

  2. Art Simmons

    March 13, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    The purpose of the American Revolution was to separate from an oppressive government (England).

    The cause of the American Civil War was the South’s desire to separate from a hostile and oppressive government.

    It was the secession of states of the Confederacy, seeking relief from northern oppression and interference in their internal affairs, that led to the Civil War.

    The attack on, and the defense of slavery, played a role in that decision. However, it was the denial of a state’s RIGHT to leave a Union they found oppressive and intolerable that actually led to the Civil War.

    I see this national division, this era of political hatreds, this refusal to compromise, this era of inflammatory speech online as symptomatically parallel to America in the years just prior to Southern secession.

    To paraphrase, we either learn from history, or we will be doomed to repeat it. And I’m afraid that time of reckoning isn’t far off.

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