My first wife grew up in Richmond, VA. While I was in seminary and we were dating, I visited her in Richmond over Christmas break, and was introduced to The Fan District and Monument Avenue, among other sights.
This was back in the ‘90s, and was part of my introduction to Southern culture and history through a Southern lens. I had never seen so much large statuary in one place before, all lining one street, not to mention all of it a reminder of “The War of Northern Aggression.”
This was way before Charlottesville had become a rally point in the battle over Confederate monuments. Way before the Charleston Massacre at Mother Emmanuel Church caused SC Governor Nikki Haley to order the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the capitol.
Yet, as coverage of Charlottesville, and Charleston, and the ongoing fight over Confederate statues illustrates, it’s a matter of what these monuments represent, which cannot be erased, even if every monument could be taken down.
In last Sunday’s New York Times, there was an article on the OneRace Movement, which held a rally in August in Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta, in front of the huge stone carving of three Confederate Civil War leaders that the Times calls “the largest Confederate monument problem in the world.”
A white pastor of an Atlanta megachurch, a descendant of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Civil War general and founder of the KKK, was joined on stage by two relatives of Mother Emmanuel Church shooting victims.
The Stone Mountain carving is highly relevant today because GA Governor candidate Stacey Abrams has called the carving “a blight on our state” and called for it to be blasted off.
A goal of the OneRace Movement is to depoliticize the monuments debate and put the focus on things like repentance, truth and reconciliation, and reparations—which are much harder work, even, than physically removing monuments.
They’re also more about transforming the human spirit than they are about being right.