Let me be clear from the outset: I do no support the monuments.
I grew up in this city. Monument Avenue marked my northern limit for personal exploration as a tween. I was allowed to venture anywhere within the Monument / Boulevard / Main / Belvidere box, though I may have tested those limits from time to time. But because they were my limits, I traveled them extensively. The monuments were very much a part of my cultural knowledge of this city.
As a child they did not bother me. Even as a young adult, I allowed myself to buy into the "part of history" and "culture of the south" (I won't quite venture to "heritage") notions. I even can still allow a romanticized version of history to justify the presence of most: Lee was, after all, not in favor of slavery, but defended Virginia as his personal homeland, and remained a public figure for reasonably good causes after the war; Jeb Stuart died defending the city; even Stonewall Jackson could be viewed as a hero of Virginia, more so than a hero of the South.
But all of that falls apart at the shrine to Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis was not a Virginian. He did not die defending Richmond, or Virginia. He argued long after the war that the South should remain defiant, and reading some of his bio information I learned that he was not well liked or even respected by his government, largely ignoring the responsibilities of Head of State to micro-manage the military.
And let's not forget: it's not a monument. It's a SHRINE. It is actually called a shrine. Monuments are erected to remember great men and great events. Shrines are built to worship them.
So the monuments are, at best, problematic. The shrine is inexcusable.
But to super duper complicate everything, Monument Avenue is also a national landmark, so the likelihood of doing anything destructive about it is next to zero. Ever. And while it would be easy to turn the resulting anger toward other statues and monuments in the region, evidently early 20th century racists had a plan for that and actually exhumed and re-interred the remains of A.P. Hill into the base of his statue. Check and mate: Richmond's statues are here to stay.
But that doesn't mean we have to celebrate it. I've mused for some time over ideas of how to deter traffic from the area. Richmond's mayor, Levar Stoney, has expressed support for measures that would diminish the cultural impact of Monument Avenue, so here are a short list of options that would cost next to nothing for the city, and would significantly detract from the foot and vehicle traffic that we force to see our monuments and SHRINES to racism and treason:
- Reduce the speed limit inside I-195 to VCU to 25mph. It's residential!
- Install stop signs at every intersection that does not include a traffic circle. (Push traffic to Broad St)
- Rename the street to Franklin St. That's the name east of Stuart Circle, and while there is a "W Franklin St past Thompson St, that could also be renamed "Old Franklin St".
- Suggest that Henrico County rename their portion to "Franklin St". They have no monuments and no overlapping street names and gain nothing from celebrating Richmond's troubled past.
- STOP HOSTING PUBLIC EVENTS ON MONUMENT AVENUE
- Move the Easter Parade--Byrd Park would be a lovely venue.
- Move the 10K to Broad St
- Eliminate the marathon's turn at the Stonewall Jackson monument
- Allow parking on both sides of the street at all times, not just Sunday
We will not win a war against the statues, but we can at least make them inconvenient.