Tea Time with Tagwa: Removal of Confederate statues should not end the Black Lives Matter movement

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, do not be fooled. Do not allow this one victory to halt the progress we are making. The removal of the Robert E. Lee statue is only the beginning of the change we need to see.

During a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the Department of General Services will be removing the infamous Lee statue that stands at the roundabout on Monument Avenue.

While the gesture is truly appreciated, don’t you think the timing of the decision is quite disappointing? It took six days of protesting and vandalizing the statue for Virginia’s leaders to realize that perhaps the monument is not an appropriate representation of history. 

I, like many black VCU students and Richmond community members, had to drive or walk by that statue many times throughout the year. We wrote letters, signed petitions, begged and pleaded to have that hateful piece of history removed but to no avail. Until now.

That statue was a symbol of the Confederacy, a symbol of racism, a symbol of hate. 

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy because of its diverse population and its black students on both the campuses of VCU and Virginia Union University. Yet every time we saw that statue, we were reminded that — not only this city — this nation is still plagued with the epidemic of racism. 

Now that it’s being removed, there is a looming sense that we, as black people, should be grateful for what we’ve achieved. We should take the win and stop the protests. But that implicit message is a sheer representation that people don’t understand what these protests are about. The people taking the streets of Richmond, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Los Angeles and countless other American cities aren’t asking you to put a bandage on a bullet wound. They are demanding change in a system that allows such a statue to stay standing for so long.

Many people don’t truly understand the point of this movement. We are not exclusively protesting these statues. We are not exclusively protesting police brutality. We are not even exclusively protesting racism. We are protesting the system that normalizes and condones such injustices against the black community. 

In 1966, civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael said: “Racism is not a question of attitude; it is a question of power.” 

It’s time the everso “melting pot” of races that this country claims to be sees an equal distribution of power. Do not let this slow down the momentum of progress we are making. The monuments are only the beginning. And that’s the tea.

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