Beginning next year, business leaders in Virginia and other states will be asked whether to remove the names and symbols of Confederate generals and the state’s name from memorials, flags and other parts of public life.
“People are either going to continue to be smart and care about honoring symbols or they are going to be so stupid that we just forget that these symbols exist,” said Fred Fromm, the state’s former attorney general. “Now our state government is beginning to discover that it is mostly smart and serious to take down symbols that sit in the way of government and society.”
Last year, 38 states were asked whether they wanted to eliminate or remove the names and symbols of Confederate generals, marchers, flag-carriers and other figures who were part of the racist Confederacy. Virginia was the first state to respond to the question, with 72 percent of voters saying they wanted to add that to the list.
Fromm said three state attorneys general will conduct an independent study of whether to remove or remove the state’s name from memorials. The report, expected to be released next month, will examine the consequences of removing a particular public institution, whether a society, local government or community functions in removing its name and symbols, whether the flags or other commemorative items are essential or unexamined and whether a monument should or shouldn’t be moved.
Supporters of including the names and symbols hope that the widening application of the measure will prompt the Legislature to remove them from state parks and public buildings across the Commonwealth.
“Some will say, ‘Well, fine, we should just do something about it. But we should have done something about this 30 years ago, before it had anything to do with slavery,'” Fromm said. “The very fact that it’s part of the national conversation is what makes it interesting.”
Fromm’s proposal, modeled after one made in Virginia last year, moves quickly among the 108 lawmakers. Eight more are on record supporting the concept and 44 are opposed, making the effort by Of Free Application for Federal Taxpayer Funds, the group of state officials who have introduced the bill, the third-most supported concept in the House of Delegates.
Rep. Douglas West, R-Asheville, said he thinks his second effort to remove the Confederate monument will run a better chance than the first.
“They’re not going to be doing any phone calls at all until the bill’s passed,” West said. “I’m just not sure when. … I think we have to start thinking about what the world is going to look like after 60 years of the Confederate Battle emblem.”
Fromm said he thinks removing the names of Confederate generals is likely to encounter greater pushback from former Confederates than before.
“I think that’s how it will be,” Fromm said. “I think that in some states, they’re going to react to that, while others will respect it.”
He said he believes a major push against removing the monuments may come from those on the right, such as the Family Research Council, which encouraged 10 out of 11 states on the list to ban or limit access to Confederate monuments.
“They’re going to end up fighting for their right to have some limited places to erect anything that they want to put,” Fromm said.
Rep. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Virginia Beach, said she is not thrilled that Virginia will be among those rejecting Confederate names and symbols. She said she didn’t realize that the southern states had been moving forward for so long in marking the Confederacy’s atrocities and tolerance.
“I don’t know that we’ve actually got anywhere close to the bipartisan support that we do have in the General Assembly in the South for removing the names and symbols of the Confederate generals,” Holtzman Vogel said. “But we’re moving into a place where, as a society, we’re becoming more and more intolerant.”Copyright Associated Press