Editorial: It’s time to remove Decatur’s monument to white supremacy from the SquareAfter the Stand With Charlottesville candlelight vigil on August 13. 2017, in Decatur, Ga., attendees gather to discuss the controversial "Lost Cause" monument in Decatur Square.
Decatur, GA — It’s been nearly three years since this community began a discussion about removing a Confederate monument from the Decatur Square.
That’s three years too long, in our view. The monument should’ve been removed well before this discussion started in 2017. That it still stands is a testament to the lack of political will among our city and county leaders. It also symbolizes the enduring legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, codified in a Georgia law prohibiting removal of these monuments.
The monument is located by the old DeKalb County courthouse and was constructed in 1908. It was placed in its prominent location to intimidate Black people and buttress a campaign of racist terrorism against them.
Removing the monument is not going to fix our modern problems with racist policing and systemic inequities. It won’t fix anything immediately. But it has to be done. If not now — after watching the country march in every city for days over the death of George Floyd — when?
While our leaders have done some things to try and put the monument in context, including a marker that notes it is an artifact of white supremacy, it’s not enough.
There may be a law against removing the monument, but the only reason it’s still standing is that our local leaders won’t take it down and tell the state to get bent. They need to take it down today before some freelance demolition expert does it. If they can’t find a museum to take it, then it should be warehoused or sent to a landfill. We really don’t care which.
City Schools of Decatur should make some of its high school students filming these racist videos help with the monument’s removal and cleanup.
Yes, the state might try to protect the monument. If the state wants to defend its racist-ass law in court in an election year, let’s see how that works out for them. The city of Decatur isn’t a stranger to throwing punches. If you’ll recall, our city leadership effectively dismantled the state’s racist Immigration Enforcement Review Board by fighting a frivolous complaint filed by former lieutenant governor Casey Cagle. Removing the monument will take considerably less time than that did and it will be more meaningful to people of color living in this community.
There are smart attorneys working for this city and our county. Let them handle the legalities of it. Our city and county leadership needs to act, now. Leaders in Birmingham, Ala. have already done this. Athens, Ga. could soon follow suit.
The logistics of removing the monument in Decatur have been studied and contextualized enough. Every day that monument stands is another day we are telling our Black friends and neighbors that we don’t care enough about them to take the risk of doing what is right.
The right thing to do has been abundantly clear for some time. Remove the monument. If the state wants to protect it, let them try. This is as good a time as any to pick a fight and this is a fight worth picking.
To Decatur and county leadership: Get this piece of crap monument out of the Square before someone in the community hurts themselves trying to do it for you.
Let’s contextualize this monument by removing it.
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