A great debate is emerging in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA. Many members of the community are disturbed by the statues that hold great stations of prominence in the city’s parks. Robert E. Lee Park is home to an enormous statue of the Confederate, high on his horse, looking noble as can be. A statue dedicated to Lewis and Clark also depicts Sacagawea, the native American guide who many now recognize as as the party truly responsible for Lewis and Clark’s successful journey westward. Rather than standing next to the men, she is represented crouching behind them meekly, only noticeable after a close look at the statue.
So the question is, what do do with these monuments? They are surely a part of our past, but they they don’t represent our collective views as a culture today. Some argue that we should leave them as is, simply because they’re a part of our history, but the fact is that the Robert E. Lee statue was erected long after the Civil War, and is more accurately a relic of the Jim Crow era than an authentic remnant of Charlottesville’s role in the Civil War.
Should the statues be taken down, and replaced with more culturally sensitive monuments? If not that, couldn’t we at least take Robert E. Lee’s statue down off its pedestal, and add interpretive information that might make it clear that our city does not still collectively support the world he fought for?