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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,109
January 12, 2022
Progress in Black-White Relations
By Mike McManus

The three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, 25, a black man, nearly two years ago, were sentenced last week to life in prison, two without possibility of parole.

As Judge Timothy Walmsley put it, "As we understand it, he left his home apparently to go for a run, and he ended up running for his life." He was unarmed. Civil rights leaders praised the men's convictions in November as hard-won justice in this case, which saw no arrests until more than two months after Arbery's death.

The three men were charged only after a cell phone video of the event went viral, thrusting the killing into the national spotlight, leaving many outraged at a justice system that showed little concern for black lives.

The convictions came a day after the death of Sidney Portier, who was the first black man to win an Academy Award for best actor in his role in "Lillies of the Field," a film released in 1963 - the same year as the civil rights March on Washington.
The murder of another black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a Minneapolis white police officer in 2020, sparked the removal of more than 130 Confederate statues. Gen. Robert E. Lee, who long presided over Monument Avenue in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy - is gone. Another removal is the statue to Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, which also stood on Monument Avenue. A third monument was to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. A fourth was to Gen. Stonewall Jackson, another Confederate general.

The placing of these heroes of the South's aim to maintain slavery in the Black History Museum & Culture Center of Virginia in Richmond - is poetic justice, immensely satisfying to black Americans today.

The plan to display the city's most historic Confederate monuments at the Black History Museum was announced by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The Richmond City Council must approve the transfer, which is expected.

The monuments were the focus of intense protests, gathering places where demonstrators clashed with police and rallied in the name of Floyd and others who have died in police encounters.

The future of Confederate statues taken down in other cities was unclear. In Newport News, a century-old statue was turned down by five organizations including historical societies and museums. Similarly, the nearby city of Norfolk had no takers for its Confederate statue, known as "Johnny Reb."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are nearly 1,800 Confederate symbols displayed on public land. About 130 of them have been removed so far. Many schools and highways are also being renamed.

The Confederate statues were located across the South, of course, but also in far away cities. A Confederate Memorial Fountain built in 1916 in Helena, Montana was removed in 2017 and replaced with a new Unity Fountain in 2020. In New Mexico three Jefferson Davis Highway markers were taken down in 2018.

The expedited removal of Confederate monuments, particularly on courthouse and government grounds is a beneficial step toward the nation's healing asserted Geoff Ward, a professor in African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, who has mapped out visual symbols of racism.

But Ward worries that necessary conversations about racial injustice that people of color are asking for in their communities are failing to happen each time a statue is taken down.

"This is a familiar U.S. scenario," Ward said. "Seeking to quickly move on and declare matters settled rather than dealing with issues and really processing traumas."

Nevertheless, there are been tremendous progress from a black point of view.

For example who would have imagined that in California was a "Confederate Corners" established in 1868 by southerners who moved to California? Or that there would be a Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Long Beach and another in San Diego?

It is a new day for black America.


Copyright (c)2022 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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