Removing Reb

City workers removing the 100-year-old statue.

Photo by Cville Tomorrow

City workers removing the 100-year-old statue.

Inez Goering, Staff Writer

Quarrels have been sparking around Charlottesville as the district court made a decision to remove the contentious Confederate monuments downtown. The Johnny Reb statue that stood in front of the courthouse was removed on September 12th, after years of complaints about how these figures (specifically Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee) flaunt images of oppression rather than historical relevance. These monuments depict confederate notions and have done more harm than good in our town. But what is the reason for all this brouhaha?

Many students at Charlottesville High School aren’t very informed regarding the history of Virginia’s civil war involvement, or why these statues are important. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee served as Confederate generals in the civil war, and “Johnny Reb” is a nickname for the common confederate soldier. All three of these statues were put up between 1909 and 1924, almost fifty years after the civil war ended. The Reb statue went up in 1909, which was only a few years after the state of Virginia passed the Jim Crow Constitution (which disenfranchised blacks), and the Jackson and Lee statues were put up in White-only parks right after the commencement of the Klu Klux Klan in Virginia. As Dr. Jalane Schmidt (full disclosure: she is my mother) from the University of Virginia said, “This was not a coincidence”.

Some might argue that it’s only appropriate to display statues that exhibit our town’s history of racism, and that removing them isn’t the best use of resources. But these statues were made to commemorate the people who fought for racism and people who endorsed keeping humans as property. It’s ridiculous that we have twenty feet tall statues to remember the “bad guys”, and a small 9×16 inch plaque embedded in the ground to represent the oppressed (which gets stepped on every day). One student wrote, “Obviously we should never forget our past, but we shouldn’t memorialize it unless we memorialize our victims.”

In a poll sent out to the CHS students, more than half of the respondents said they support the removal of the Johnny Reb statue and agree that keeping up confederate monuments is racist. One African American respondent has a positive view in respect to the statues. She wrote “When I see those statues I see how far we have come.” Another student thinks that removing them can “bring this town together and show what we stand for.” Many think that this movement can improve our town’s legacy after the events of August 12th, considering this town needs to change its reputation. More importantly, people of color will be more content when there aren’t statues of people who tried to strip them from their rights.

Rising up in numbers to stand up for what’s right will eventually turn the tables in your favor. While protesting isn’t the best idea right now due to the pandemic, you can make a difference by watching the news, following threads on social media, and actively fighting for what’s right. Voice your opinion, it matters.