My initial reaction to the discussion on the monuments was very reflective of Sen. David Vitter’s recent comments. I thought we should be focusing on people, not statues. The lowest point on the knowledge spectrum is not knowing what we don’t know. But, once you know, you know! I rode down Robert E. Lee every day on my way to Jean Gordon. Never knew who he was and honestly didn’t care. Admittedly, I was on that most dangerous point on the spectrum on the issue of the monuments. Frederick Douglass described the idolization of Lee. In 1870, Douglass wrote, “We can scarcely take up a newspaper … that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem … that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” Once you know, you know.
I recently heard someone say that we are a city that celebrates too early. While that may be true when it comes to our beloved Saints, we simply cannot drag out the celebration of a loser like Lee, who landed on the irrefutable wrong side of history. “Team Gumbo” won, and if we can’t celebrate that win, we should not be celebrating at all. For those who argue that we should be focusing on other things, I agree. But we are smart and resourceful enough to do more than one thing at one time. The removal of the statues should be the catalyst for ALL of us to relentlessly pursue equity in a city that so desperately needs it. We can celebrate when that happens, but in New Orleans, runners-up don’t get parades (or statues).
Jade Brown Russell