Loudoun County To Remove Confederate Monument

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.

Video: Phyllis Randall Talks Community Support and Blocking Trump Style Politics

One of my major complaints during this year’s election cycle has been the constant attacks and misinformation campaigns many Republicans have been using during forums and on the campaign trail in a desperate attempt to divide our community. We’ve seen school board candidates channeling Donald Trump all over Fairfax, Srilekha Palle unable to make it through her opening statement before going after her opponent on taxes and immigration policy, and Jason Remer only able to make it 34 seconds before he started launching attacks at a League of Women Voters forum. That’s why it was somewhat refreshing to see John Whitbeck make it through his entire opening statement talking about his background and goals.

The only problem with that is it’s in direct in direct contrast to what he did during his tenure as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and doesn’t address his history of furthering divisiveness and extreme policies. As Phyllis Randall said during the debate, Whitbeck likes to point to non-partisan things he did for the community while he was in his 20’s, but wants us to forget the last few years he’s spent actively supporting Donald Trump and how he claimed it was his “duty to support Corey Stewart.”

Randall’s remarks reminded me of what Fairfax County school board candidate Karl Frisch said last weekend at the Arab American Candidates Night Dinner. As the speakers were all discussing diversity, Karl highlighted how there were unfortunately several candidates who were saying one thing in front of diverse crowds while turning around and saying the exact opposite on other platforms.

“We live in an extremely diverse community,” Frisch said. “To see candidates coming before you and talking lip service to those values and then taking to Facebook and other organizations talking about how diversity is a fad. And how One Fairfax is authoritarian. We deserve so much better. You deserve people who will come before you and speak straight to you about their values.”

It’s with that in mind that I was very pleased to see Phyllis Randall use her closing statement to talk about the community coming behind her campaign and her desire to stand up for Loudoun County values. She spoke out against the Trump style politics that Whitbeck would bring to the Board of Supervisors while also passionately reminding people what Loudoun is really all about.

“The truth is this; because we are so close to Washington, DC, we feel that Trump effect,” Phyllis said. “We feel the dysfunction, the craziness, the racist policy, the divisiveness, the obstruction. We feel all that. But you know what would be even worse? It would be even worse not to just feel it, but to experience it on the board. And that is what could happen if you don’t have the right people who serve on the Board of Supervisors.”

“I will tell you, that’s not who we are,” Chair Randall went on to say. “We are not those people who support this president. We are the people who want to support the man who has a part time job but is looking for a full time job and going to work all the time. We are the people support that woman who comes home from work and just feels like she’s just so tired that she just doesn’t know what to do. We are the people who want to get every single person people out of traffic. We are the people who support reasonable, reasonable, gun control laws. We are the people who believe in climate change. We are the people who want to fully our education system. We are the people who want to fully put more money in our mental health program. We are the people who want the board to look like the people they represent.

“We are Loudoun County and that is who we are,” she concluded. “We are the best county in the country and it has been my honor to serve you.”

For those who are interested, here’s the video I shot of Chair Randall’s closing statement.