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Putting Another White Civil War Guy on Monument
By Brianna Duff
As a long-time Richmonder, if I know anything about my city, it is that our heritage, particularly our Confederate heritage leftover from the by-gone War Between the States, is an integral part of our identity. It’s easy to drive down Monument Avenue and see the many Confederate generals standing proud in the middle of traffic and know this is true. Those statues are our past looking down at us, but from what I know, Richmond has been good about keeping her history in her past. Our city is diverse and brilliant and intense, and though it remembers, it never reverts back to some of the thinking that was wide-spread a couple centuries ago.
That is how I have always seen my city: we remember but we also move forward. That is why the discussion that Rick Gray brings up in Style Weekly, Richmond's weekly alternative newspaper, is hard for me to buy into.
Gray states, very plainly, his disagreement with a lawyer in Loudoun County who is trying to have a statue of a Confederate soldier removed. That “infantry grunt,” he says, “is hardly a symbol of racism. It’s primarily a commemoration of courage and self-sacrifice, as all soldier’s memorials should be.” Sure, I agree. For the majority of people in Virginia, that soldier is just a minute our history we’d like to give credit to, and nothing more.
But Gray continues on to say that instead of letting those nostalgic liberals win, we should stick another statue on Monument, this time of “another white, Virgina-born general” who did amazing things for his country. If the phrase “another white” doesn’t get you, how about the fact that Gray’s suggestion is a Union general rather than a Confederate one?
Don’t get me wrong: the Union did change history for the better. I don’t think a lot of people will argue with you if you say the Union helping to rid the world of slavery and change how this country was run was a good thing.
But this comes down to the fundamentals of Richmond’s heritage and the idea that though we are moving forward, we are still proud of our past and want to remember those men who stood for what the city stood for then, people like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, even if they ended up being on the “wrong” side in the end. Putting a Union general, no matter if he did perform “whatever duty was assigned him,” almost denounces the heritage Richmond has stood by.
I also think that such a statue would be forcing an entire city to try to see this new general taking rank amongst the men who Virginia was and still is proud of, 150 years later. Why not continue moving forward? Why not just let the statues on Monument remind in simple grace of what Richmond once was, while still just remaining pieces of the past? We shouldn’t be adding new statues, or even taking away old ones because then we are forcing ourselves to argue over the guilt and blame of past generations.
Richmond was once Confederate. The North and South were once separate. But its time to remember that that is no longer the case and to just leave history where it belongs: in our fond memories.