Let me explain.
The one-year anniversary of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and subsequent decisions by communities across the country to remove and/or relocate Confederate iconography, such as flags and monuments, has led to some rather curious op-eds. Many of them have posed the question of what, if anything, has changed since their removal.
It’s a strange question to ask because it assumes that the removal of a monument is justified solely on the grounds that it will lead to broader change. Certainly it might make room for new monuments that more accurately reflect the collective values of the community or serve as a catalyst for other issues related to racial justice, but this is besides the point.
What appears to be overlooked is the very fact of the monuments removal. What has changed in these communities is that the monuments and/or flags are no longer present. I suspect that this fact, in and of itself, is the change that most activists struggled to make a reality. In other words, the act of removal itself has intrinsic value.
Go back and listen to interviews with people in New Orleans, where the highest object in the community was a monument to a man who fought for a nation that if successful would have kept the ancestors of many of the residents in the neighborhood enslaved.
What has changed is that the parents of a five-year old black girl never have to try to explain why such a man continues to enjoy this honor.