By jackson Hare, Staff Writer
Cheering crowds toppled the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Va. after the state’s supreme court ruled in favor of its removal last week.
Protesters have renewed momentum in the call to remove Confederate statues across the U.S. since 2020, as movements for racial justice gained traction around the country.
The current wave of protests hit Richmond last week after Virginia’s supreme court enabled the removal of the 131-year-old statue of Lee in a 7-0 ruling.
The statue’s removal followed 15 months of litigation.
The court’s decision came after an outcry from locals who argued that the statue’s presence prevents the community from healing from wounds of the past.
The statue appeared on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue, which was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Xavier students are divided on the removal of statues like Lee’s.
Some students argue that the statues can prevent further injustice by serving as a reminder of the past.
“Those statues exist so that we can learn from history to try our best to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Cole Waymeyer, first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public (PPP) major, said.
“(They) serve as an example for people to say, ‘These are the people you don’t want to be,’” he said.
Other students maintain that statues can implicitly promote hateful ideology if not signposted with explicit information about the person’s past.
“If they left the statue of Robert E. Lee up, they should have information on who he was and why what he stood for was wrong,” Chelsey Koch, a first-year advertising major, said.
“(The statue would serve) as a form of education instead of Confederate pride,” she continued.
Koch emphasized that the values behind the statue should be made clear to ensure that the statue cannot be used to spread hateful or discriminatory ideology.
Other students unequivocally advocated for the statue’s removal, stating that any monument to White supremacist symbols or figures promotes White supremacy, regardless of the intent behind the statue.
“As someone who is from the South… this has been a pressing issue for years. Personally, my stance on Confederate statues is that they do need to go,” senior PPP and political science major Lizzy Parker said.
“These monuments were built decades after the Civil War by the Daughters of the Confederacy to promote the pseudo-historical ‘Lost Cause’ ideology and ultimately white supremacy,” she added.
The Robert E. Lee statue was built in 1890, around the same time period where many Confederate statues were put up across the U.S.
In the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling, the court argued that the values represented by the Reconstruction-era statue no longer resonate with public opinion.
The ruling was in response to lawsuits filed by Virginians who were attempting to prevent the statue’s removal.
“(Laws protecting statues) compel government speech by forcing the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,” the court said.