In a huge (and presumably late) step forward, four major Confederate monuments will be taken down in New Orleans, after being prominently displayed in the city for more than one hundred years.
On Thursday, December 17, in a 6-1 vote, New Orleans’ city council decided to remove statues of Generals Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard; Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy; and an obelisk dedicated to the Battle of Liberty Place, NOLA.com reported.
NOLA’s mayor Mitch Landrieu–who is white–felt that after the church killings in Charleston, he had to push for the Confederate statues in his city to be removed, CNN reported. He told the council on the day of the vote, “The time surely comes when (justice) must and will be heard…Members of the council, that day is today. The Confederacy, you see, was on the wrong side of history and humanity.”
“I am happy and impressed that we have a white mayor who understands a little bit what it means to be an African American and he’s on our side on this,” said Councilman James Gray, who has called the statues a celebration of “murderers and rapists.”
The road to this victory wasn’t easy and over the past months the city was confronted with serious widespread tension, NOLA.com points out. But when the decision was announced, the room erupted with cheers.
“We need not honor these individuals and moments from the past that do not meet our standards of decency, equality and nondiscrimination,” said Council member Nadine Ramsey.
Granted, not everyone is happy with the city council’s decision, including Councilwoman Stacy Head, the only city council member to vote against the removal. She told NOLA.com, “I asked for a compromise multiple times, but that compromise was not given any chance.”
In addition, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Monumental Task Committee and Beauregard Camp No. 130 filed a federal lawsuit on Friday, claiming that the city “has failed to comply with federal laws protecting sites on the National Register of Historic Places,” WSDU.com reported.
What happened in NOLA is part of a rising trend of the dismantling of Confederate history of as of late, albeit by force like Bree Newsome, by lawmakers in states such as Georgia and South Carolina and by powerful franchises such as Walmart discontinuing its confederate merchandise. Whatever the case, one can only hope that these actions are more than mere symbols of change, but will usher in an actual dismantling of systematic oppression and racist ideology in the U.S.
What do you think: Do signs of progress mean that things have or will change? Or does that really matter?