These past few days have been hard and they have been painful.
They have forced white Americans to confront the safety and privilege that our skin color affords us – a feeling that Black Americans have not had the luxury of knowing.
The weight of fear and pain that our society places on the shoulders of Black Americans is immoral and unsustainable. In conversations I’ve had over the last week I’ve heard over and over again words like ‘tired’ and ‘exhausted.’
No one should have to live with the fear that they, their children, or loved ones could be killed if they do something as simple as go for a walk or run an errand.
I can’t personally know the weight of that fear but I recognize it and I am listening.
We must dismantle the systemic racism that permeates our communities and build a country that is fair, and just, and safe for all people.
That includes removing the painful reminders of a racist past that stain our commonwealth.
These grandiose monuments memorializing a racist insurrection do not belong in our public spaces.
They do not deserve to stand as a representation of our commonwealth and our people.
The way we tell our history as a people influences the way that each of us view our role within our society.
When people are constantly surrounded by symbols of white supremacy and hate it introduces and reinforces the false and poisonous notion that there is a hierarchy of races.
How do you possibly explain these statues to a Black child? What do you tell them about why it is there? You can’t, it’s indefensible.
And how do you tell a black man or a black woman that they’re going to get a fair and impartial trial when the entrance to the courthouse is literally blocked by a monument to a movement that sought to keep them enslaved.
Virginia has hundreds of public Confederate symbols, including statues, monuments, school names, and until recently a state holiday.
These portrayals of the Confederacy and its leaders as grand, heroic figures distort our understanding of history and glorify the oppression and injustice that these men fought a war over.
They were raised as part of a deliberate and intentional effort to intimidate and degrade Black Virginians and suppress the growing civil rights movement, and now they must come down as part of deliberate and intentional effort to heal and move forward together.
This is an important step because symbols do matter. But taking this monument down will not stop police abuse, close education or health disparities, or erase the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of our country.
There is much, much more that we must do to heal the pain that so many Virginians have been feeling for too long.
We have a long road ahead of us but we cannot allow our fellow Virginians to bear this burden that we have forced them to carry any longer.
We need to do the work to make Virginia the open, welcoming, fair and just place that I know it can be.