After destroying everything that made Richmond, Virginia unique, beautiful, and good, Governor Ralph Northam is proposing to spend millions of dollars to create bland, homogeneous, meaningless new works of art. His proposed budget for 2021 includes $11 million to redesign Monument Avenue, which was until recently the location of five magnificent status of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Gen. Jeb Stuart, and Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. (Lee is technically still standing but has been completely covered with graffiti and will be removed next year unless an appellate judge reverses the court decision allowing his removal.) Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement brutally vandalized the beautiful statues over the summer, and Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney took the side of the destructive mobs and ordered the statues removed. The budget also includes $9 million to develop a Slavery Heritage Site and $100,000 to build a Virginia Emancipation and Freedom Monument.
This article at Hyperallergic.com describes the plan as “funding public art that tells a more complete and inclusive story of American history.” National Geographic describes Northam’s vision as “inclusive art recognizing a diverse and challenging history… The long-term goal is to repurpose parts of Monument Avenue to better reflect Virginia’s and America’s diverse heritage… to elevate unheard voices and neglected histories.” In Northam’s words, “These investments will help Virginia tell the true story of our past and continue building an inclusive future. At a time when this Commonwealth and country are grappling with how to present a complete and more honest picture of our complex history, we must work to enhance public spaces that have long been neglected and shine light on previously untold stories.” And Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, which is leading the effort to design new monuments, said, “It is about looking to the future, looking to a future that’s inclusive, that’s forward thinking, and there’s also an element of healing.”
Unfortunately, this plan is the exact opposite of how it is being described. A collection of public art that leaves out the Confederacy is by definition neither complete, nor inclusive, nor diverse. It is Confederate historical figures whose voices have traditionally been unheard and whose stories have been neglected. Removing their statues and replacing them with monuments to mainstream, moderate, non-controversial, bland, mundane people just makes their voices even more unheard and their stories even more neglected. Northam’s vision is to further marginalize those who are already marginalized and further elevate those who are already in the spotlight. Monument Avenue already did shine light on previously untold stories, and Northam and Stoney decided to wipe those stories out. Brutally inflicting further pain on those who are already hurting, in order to please those who already receive preferential treatment, is the exact opposite of healing. It is beyond sickening and beyond reprehensible that Northam, having destroyed Richmond’s diversity and beauty, is now spending $11 million of taxpayer money to replace these irreplaceable works of art with conformity and nothingness. If he truly cared about inclusion, diversity, healing, unheard voices, neglected histories, or untold stories, he would have ordered all of the beautiful Confederate monuments to be cleaned up, repaired, protected, and preserved for all time.