Recently, Opinion editor Brendan Novak a column about why he was wrong about the alt-right and their rights to hold events like the “unite the right” rally. Admitting you were wrong takes a great deal of courage, and after reading Novak’s column I was inspired to do the same. In the past few months, I have pieces arguing against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park. These columns were written not as arguments for honoring Confederate history, but out of concern that the removal of these symbols would amount to the only actions taken to rectify racial inequities in our society. I feared that the political capital needed to address the very serious racial issues our community faces would be squandered on what I saw as surface level changes that would remove a daily reminder for the public of the work we still have to do as a society.
This view I held was completely changed by the events which took place at the “Unite the Right” rally, as well as by statements made by white supremacists the rally. It has become clear to me that this statue must come down, because the ideology it represents is evil and serves as a rallying point for its adherents.
Other demonstrations the “Unite the Right” rally, and I assumed this event would transpire in the same way. I believed it would come and pass and while the views these individuals represented were evil, our community would come together and remain strong in the face of this ideology. When I looked at my television and saw the sheer of white supremacists present and the which took place during the rally, I knew this time would be different. The horrific images from the rally show that committing an act of domestic and taking an innocent life is not beneath these individuals. These images show that these events only had one purpose: to sow fear into our community.
These fears are compounded by well-known white supremacist Richard Spencer’s that white supremacists would be back again. This is precisely why we need to remove the statue, because if we do not make a change, white supremacists will continue to descend upon our community. By continuing to keep these symbols in a public space, we are making our town the most popular place for white supremacists to rally. The hate and vitriol which continues to descend on our town will not cease if we do not remove these symbols. The huge growth of these white supremacist organizations shows that their evil ideology is still with us, and if it is not dealt with it will continue to terrorize Charlottesville and the citizens which this group targets.
This is why the statue has to come down. It is not about erasing history, it is about driving the evil of white supremacy to the margins of our society. Removing these symbols of hatred from places where these groups congregate to intimidate the marginalized in our society would be a demonstration that this kind of hate and vitriol is not welcome in our city or our country. That will only come to pass when the public symbols honoring these individuals are taken down. In this process however, it is imperative we continue to make progress on racial issues. We should not stop at removing these symbols from our public spaces, but push harder to rectify racial inequities. We have to keep making racial progress and inclusion a priority in our society to improve it and prove these neo-Nazis wrong.
Confederate statues belong in a museum; as reminder to all of us about the work we still have to do in our society to rectify historic injustices. These symbols cannot serve as a public reminder of racism and its effects so long as they are still revered by many who seek to terrorize the most vulnerable in our society. After Saturday’s horrific events, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the removal of a Confederate statue from the state house grounds rightly : “While we cannot hide from our history…The time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history.” After the “Unite the Right” rally, it’s become clearer than ever that these statues represent hate and their adherents will continue to gather around them to spread their hateful ideology unless they are taken down.
Jacob Asch is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.