Step up, Virginia!
Since the 2015 massacre of nine worshippers at Charleston AME Church by a white supremacist who posed with the Confederate flag on social media, 110 statues, markers and school names linked to the Confederacy have been removed or changed. On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center released an update to their report "Whose Heritage?" showing the distribution of these removals.
Texas has led the way with 31 removals statewide. The Commonwealth of Virginia, which has the largest number of public Confederate symbols of any state, came in second with 14 removals, but predictably only two of these were statues. In this category, Virginia trails behind nine other states.
As noted in the report, state laws protect many of the 1,700 Confederate symbols that remain throughout the United States. That is the case in Virginia, which has 51 Confederate statues or monuments on the grounds of courthouses alone. Considered "war memorials," they cannot be removed according to the Code of Virginia.
Although Virginia legislators introduced bills to amend the Code, thereby permitting localities to determine the fate of such memorials, all were quashed in committee. The Kudzu Project feels this approach will not bring about the desired outcome even if legislation were passed. Left to localities, it is unlikely that many of the offending Confederate statues and memorials will be removed.
The placement of Confederate monuments at courthouses poses an egregious threat to the promise of equal justice assured all citizens in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Every person that walks past a Confederate statue on their way into the courthouse is consciously or unconsciously impacted by it, including attorneys, jurors, judges and, most severely, defendants. These statues and monuments are not "war memorials," they are symbols of white supremacy that perpetuate the oppression of people of color through the legal system. Step up, Virginia, and take them down!