There’s always some “good reason” not to do the right thing.

To believe that removing Confederate monuments is an adequate and sufficient response to the crises and injustices facing our communities would be delusional.

Young people killing each other, police killing unarmed citizens, structural racism, skyrocketing rents, unemployment, growing inequality. Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson, New Orleans.

Our times demand responses that go beyond symbols.

But to believe that symbols have no role to play in that process — that because we have big fish to fry we should keep on honoring the shameful, lost cause of white supremacy — is equally delusional.

We have learned, as pastors, that symbols have power because they are instruments of power. Symbols are how we say who we are as a people and what we stand for, how we communicate our values in the public sphere, how we galvanize ourselves for action, or for inaction.

We should remove these symbols of white supremacy from their places of high, public honor in New Orleans.

As more than 100 fellow clergy wrote in an open letter a few months ago available at, “In their current state, lacking any proper context, these monuments do not teach us about the past. They reflect a deafening silence about Jim Crow culture.”

We should remove the monuments, not as the end of a process, but as the beginning of one — as a first step to galvanize ourselves to make it our life’s work to address the structural causes of racism in our society.

There will be those who say “the process is flawed and has moved too fast,” that we ought to “go slow.” But we have heard those words before, and we know the spirit from which they come. Most memorably, we remember 50 years ago how a certain reverend in a “Letter from Birmingham Jail” combated such accusations.

There’s always some “good reason” not to do the right thing.

What this moment demands of our elected leaders is that they do the right thing — that they remove the symbols of white supremacy from the high places of our city.

What this moment demands of ourselves is the deeper challenge, requiring a longer-term commitment — that we acknowledge our failings, as well as the structures and cultures that oppress and set one against the other. That we acknowledge them and change them.

The Rev. Shawn Moses Anglim


New Orleans