National Insights

A modest proposal for Charlottesville

Replace the Robert E. Lee statue with one of Heather Heyer
By Constantine A. Valhouli  |  August 22, 2017 2:13 PM

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville via Wikimedia Commons

A modest proposal: replace the Charlottesville statue of Robert E. Lee with one that honors Heather Heyer, the activist who was killed protesting the neo-Nazi rally. Rename the park in her honor, so that people will remember her story and have a touchpoint for

Today, Charlottesville is shrouding the Confederate statues of Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in black fabric, to mourn Heather Heyer. This is a good gesture, but it does not go nearly far enough.

Those statues will be soon be uncovered, and will again be uncomfortable reminders of the original crimes the men perpetrated. The statues will serve as reminders of the pathetic attempt at instilling fear during Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. And the statues will serve as uneasy reminders of the tragic events when 20-year old James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd protesting the Nazi rally.

We have a long history of replacing statues when a regime shifts. During the American Revolution, a statue of King George III in Lower Manhattan was toppled, and was melted to make bullets for the colonial troops. One cannot help but admire the symbolism.

And this is the sort of symbolism that we need today.

These Confederate statues should be preserved - but preserved in a museum to serve as a reminder of our country's shameful history of racism and inequality. This particular statue, however, should be melted and used to make a statue that honors Ms. Heyer, who gave her life fighting for the same cause that Robert E. Lee was fighting against.

The cause of Heather Heyer's death is even more symbolic when one considers that Republican lawmakers in six states – including Florida, Rhode Island, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas – have introduced laws granting civil immunity to drivers who strike protesters with their vehicles, according to CityLab.