With the national conversation surrounding statues that glorify white supremacists who led armies against the United States because they wanted to buy and sell black people, Loudoun County has received some attention as it plans to remove a statue from the grounds of the county courthouse. It’s especially symbolic that Phyllis Randall, the first African American ever elected Chair of the county Board of Supervisors, was one of the leading advocates for removal.
On Tuesday, Phyllis presided over a unanimous vote to remove the statue and return it to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The vote helped show how even more moderate counties like Loudoun, which still has some conservative rural communities in it, realize it’s inappropriate to have public monuments that represent oppression.
With that being said, we also can’t ignore that we still have elected officials who are trying to promote a false narrative surrounding confederate monuments. Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), for instance, tried to create a put a positive spin on statues glorifying white supremacists while saying he only voted for removal because the statue was being given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“It’s dishonest to say we have to tear this down because it was put up for oppressive reasons,” Kershner said according to the Washington Post. “We shouldn’t be removing history from our public square. It’s a very dangerous precedent that gets set.”
Despite the comments from Kershner, Chair Randall highlighted how this was a community effort to make sure public grounds are used to help create a welcoming community.
“Credit goes to the thousands of Loudoun residents and Freedom Fighters who never stopped pushing for justice,” Phyllis tweeted. “Thank you to my colleagues who believed in the righteousness of the cause.”
In another tweet, she highlighted some history surrounding the state and the racism that was far too often seen in Loudoun’s courthouse.
“In 1889 Orion Andersen, 14 was taken from Loudoun’s Courthouse and Jail. He was dragged, beat, shot & lynched. His ‘crime,’ he scared a white girl with a playful gesture,” Phyllis said. “19 years later, a Confederate monument was placed in front of that Courthouse. On July 7, 2020…the arc bent.”
As someone who has a degree in American history and has always had an interest in the Civil War, I agree it’s a topic worth studying and I completely understand why people are passionate about it. But if we’re truly interested in history and not simply promoting white supremacy, we also cannot ignore the history surrounding the statues.
Why are the far more statues glorifying the confederacy in Virginia, for instance, then honoring figures of the American Revolution? Virginians played an enormous role the revolution, but some people appear to be more interested in keeping statues glorifying people who led armies against the US because they wanted to buy and sell human beings then looking at Virginia’s part in the revolution.
Especially with recent events further illustrating the systematic racism that has unfortunately been a part of our society for centuries, taking steps towards creating a more welcoming community is absolutely necessary. Removing a statue isn’t going to solve all our issues, but it’s symbolic of how Virginians want to see progress made.