Jun 4, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam Announces Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Announces Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGov. Ralph Northam Announces Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on June 4 where he announced the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the confederate military leader. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.

 

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Mayor Levar Stoney: (00:01)
We know better. And now that we know better, it’s time to do better. The decision announced by the governor today, and the ordinance I will propose to our city council to remove all of our city controlled monuments on Monument Avenue signal a new day for our city and for our Commonwealth. And as a 39 year old black man, the grandson of a housekeeper maid and a son of a janitor, I couldn’t be more proud of the decision we have made. I thank you, governor for your leadership. And also I want to thank all the Richmonders and Virginians young and old who have come out over the last week to peacefully protest injustice and add their voices to promote reconciliation, equality, healing, change and atonement for the past.

Mayor Levar Stoney: (01:06)
The great writer, James Baldwin said, “History is not the past. It’s the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” This is our chance to write a new chapter in our history, our present history, and to carry the story of a diverse and loving city and commonwealth forward with us. With that, I’d like to introduce the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam.

Governor Ralph Northam: (01:40)
Good morning. Good morning. Well, first of all, Mayor Stoney, thank you so much for your powerful words. Thank you so much for your leadership during difficult times. And I just want you to know that Pam and I are proud to live in the city of Richmond. So thank you and good morning to everyone. I want to thank everyone watching from around Virginia and around our great country. And I want to thank the many guests who have joined us as we chart a new course in Virginia’s history. Today, we’re here to be honest about our past and talk about our future. I’m no historian, but I strongly believe that we have to confront where we’ve been in order to shape where we’re going. And in Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of many of them.

Governor Ralph Northam: (03:02)
Some of America’s most hopeful and forward looking moments happened right here in this commonwealth and in this capital city of Richmond. When Americans first dreamed of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they dreamed here in our commonwealth. Virginia adopted a declaration of rights before the United States declared independence. It said that all are equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights. It specifically called out freedom of the press and freedom of religion. And in a church on a hill just 15 blocks from here, Virginia’s first elected governor helped launch the American revolution when he cried, “Give me Liberty or give me death.” That was Patrick Henry. And I now have the job that he once held 72 governors ago.

Governor Ralph Northam: (04:14)
These are our greatest legacies as Americans. But there’s a whole lot more to the story, because those inspiring words and high ideals did not apply to everyone. Not then, and not now. Because at the bottom of that very same hill, one of the country’s largest slave trading markets was coming to life, a place where Virginians would sell men, women, and children for profit. Americans buying and selling other Americans. This is just as much the American story as it’s one that we are only just now beginning to tell more fully. Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through the Civil War, through Jim Crow and massive resistance and mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms. The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated instance, like we saw in Minneapolis a few days ago.

Governor Ralph Northam: (05:50)
And I want to acknowledge that our country will honor the life of George Floyd in a memorial service in about three hours. The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. But hearts are in different places and not everyone can see it, or they don’t want to see it. When I used to teach ambitious young doctors, I would tell them the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know. Think about it. The eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know. And that’s true for a lot of us. So it’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it. Public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time. That’s why we’ve been working so hard to reform criminal justice laws, expand healthcare access, make it easier to vote and so much more.

Governor Ralph Northam: (07:08)
But symbols, symbols matter too. And Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols until now. Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the calls of division. You’ll see this if you look around Virginia and our capital city. The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent. Lee himself didn’t want a monument, but Virginia built one anyway. Lee once said, “I think it is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavor to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” Those are wise words indeed. So what happened? Virginia leader said, we know better. Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American Civil War, they chose to keep them on display right here in Richmond, they launched a new campaign to undo the results of the Civil War by other means.

Governor Ralph Northam: (08:39)
They needed a symbol to shore up the calls, and it’s quite a symbol. The Lee statue was built in France, and when it arrived by boat on the James River docks, it took 10,000 citizens, 10,000 and a whole lot of rope to haul three large crates out into the tobacco field where it would be installed. Some businesspeople put it out in the field so they could eventually build a housing development around it and make money. And it worked. This happened in May of 1890, 20 years after Lee died and a generation after the Civil War ended. 150,000 people came out when the statue was unveiled. But from the beginning, there was no secret about what the statute meant. Almost every one of those 150,000 people waved Confederate flags that day.

Governor Ralph Northam: (09:48)
John Mitchell was the editor of the black newspaper, the Richmond Planet at the time. He wrote, “The emblem of the union had been left behind. A Glorification of the lost cause was everywhere.” It was a big day and more big days followed throughout the old South. And as the statues went up, so did lots of new laws. It was all part of the same campaign. Here’s just one example. New laws limited the right to vote. In the years after the Civil War, more than 100,000 African-American men were registered to vote in Virginia. But once this campaign took off, that number plummeted by 90% to barely 10,000. And that worked too, because the people who wrote these laws knew what they were doing.

Governor Ralph Northam: (10:51)
They wrote other new laws to say that once the statute goes up, it can never come down. They wanted the statues to remain forever. They needed the statues to stay forever, because they help keep the system in place. And that also worked. Those laws ruled for more than a century, but voting matters, and elections matter and laws can be changed. And this year, with the help of the general assembly, we changed them. This year, I proposed legislation to let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities. Take them down, move them somewhere else, or add additional context. That law takes effect in four weeks. And then local communities will decide. I know Richmond is going to do the right thing.

Governor Ralph Northam: (12:02)
It’s going to do the right thing. But the Lee statue is unique. It’s different from every other statue in Virginia, both in size and in legal status. You see, the state owns it unlike most other statutes. That was another part of the plan, to keep it up forever. It sits on a 100-foot circle of land, a state-owned island surrounded by the city of Richmond. The whole thing is six-stories tall. It towers over homes, businesses, and everyone who lives in Virginia from elegant Monument Avenue to the public housing neighborhood of Gilpin Court. The statue itself weighs 12 tons. And it sits the top a large pedestal. Now a pedestal is a place of honor. We put things on pedestals when we want people to look up. Think about the message that this sends to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in our country, or to young children.

Governor Ralph Northam: (13:22)
What do you say when a six-year-old African-American little girl looks you in the eye and says, ” What does this big statue mean? Why is it here?” When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows that it must be important. And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message, this is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore. You see, in Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history, one that pretends the Civil War was about state rights and not the evils of slavery. No one believes that any longer. And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people. Not in 2020. So I want us all to tell that little girl the truth. Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. So we’re taking it down.

Governor Ralph Northam: (14:43)
Now I know some will protest. Some will say Lee was an honorable man. I know many people will be angry. But my friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more. And I believe that when we learn more, when we take that honest look at our past, we must do more than just talk about the future. We must take action. So I am directing the Department of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, as soon as possible. It will go into storage. And we will work with the community to determine its future.

Governor Ralph Northam: (15:56)
Before we turn to the next speakers, I want to acknowledge all the elected officials, scholars, members of our advisory boards, and other guests who are here today. In particular, I want to acknowledge members of the family of Barbara Johns, Mr. Robert Johns and his grandson, Mr. Tyrone Mayer, Jr. You all know their family’s story. In 1951, a 16 year old girl, Barbara Johns stood up and led a protest, a student strike against substandard conditions at Robert Moten High School in Prince William County. She pushed and pushed. And two great American attorneys took up her calls; Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson filed suit just next door in the federal courthouse at the bottom of the Hill. That case became Brown versus the Board of Education. And it eventually throughout segregated schools in the United States of America. Right here, it started in Richmond. That is how you make change. You push on the outside, and you push on the inside too. We’ll hear in just a moment from a few of the people who are making change happen.

Governor Ralph Northam: (17:23)
My friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from the past. And we all know that our country needs that example right now. America is once again, looking to Virginia to lead. But make no mistake. Removing a symbol is important, but it’s only a step. It doesn’t mean problems are solved. There are still monuments of inequities that exist in our Commonwealth and in this country. We still need change in this country. We need healing most of all. But symbols do matter. My friends, we all know it’s time. And history will prove that. Thank you all so much for being a part of this important history today.

Governor Ralph Northam: (18:24)
I would now like to introduce the Reverend Robert W. Lee, the fourth. We’ve been talking about his great, great grandfather. Reverend Lee, welcome.

Reverend Robert W. Lee: (18:43)
My uncle, Robert E. Lee, so many greats removed of course, has a storied history in the Commonwealth of Virginia. But today the world is watching. Because of the death of George Floyd, because of the death of so many other people at the hands of oppression, and racism, and violence, and white supremacy, and police brutality. We are here because we want to show that we can and must be different. A new day is coming not only for the Commonwealth, but for the United States, and for the world, in which as the great Martin Luther King promised justice would roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. This is the hope that we live in. But I know that my name bears some weight here, at least in the Commonwealth, to those of you who might be doubting, to those of you who might be hedging your bets that this is not the time to do this, when will be the right time? When will it be right to address the white supremacy and racism that we have made an idol of my uncle out of?

Reverend Robert W. Lee: (20:01)
We have created an idol of white supremacy, of hatred, of racism out, and rightfully so out of the Confederacy. And we must do our best now to address that. Now, as you can see, I’m a pastor also. And I was baptized. And when you were baptized, you’re baptized by your given name, not your last name. So I was a Christian first and then a Lee second. And as a Christian, I am compelled to believe that this is a moment for us not to shy away from painful truths, but to address them for what they are.

Reverend Robert W. Lee: (20:36)
Lee, indeed was a complicated figure. And we all know that. But in his complexities, we see that he was a man of his time who fought to continue the enslavement of black people. And in so doing, set our nation on a course towards destruction. But we have a chance here today in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have a chance to say that this will indeed not be our final moment and our final stand. There is more important things to address than just a statue, yes. And we know that. And we see that across the nation. But this statue is a symbol of oppression. And if it is a symbol, it becomes an idol. And if it becomes an idol, I am convinced as a Christian, that the idols must be torn down. Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, and all the elected officials, I know that this is just a moment, we go back to work. But in our going back to work, we go back renewed knowing that this is the start of a new moment, a new cause. The lost cause is dead. A new cause is upon us. One of equality, of justice, of peace, and common accord. It is in this hope that we come together, even in spite of what’s going on across the nation. We come together and say that we must address these issues. And it starts with the statutes and it goes on from there. Don’t rest today, for the work of justice continues. And the work of what we do to bring about change continues.

Reverend Robert W. Lee: (22:24)
This past week was Pentecost. And we talked about the story of the Holy Spirit descending upon the first apostles. One of the things I thought of most prevalently was the hymn, the Canticle of the Turning and it says the world is about to turn. Let the fires of your justice burn, for the world is about to turn. Friends, the world may be burning and the world is about to turn because we are going to let justice roll down. And this is the start of something incredible. We’re with you. We support the Commonwealth. And on behalf of my line of the Lees of the descend back to the Lees of Virginia, we support you. And we wholeheartedly commend this act.

Robert Johns: (23:21)
First of all, I would like to thank Governor Northam for having me follow a pastor in my presentation. My name is Robert Johns. And I’m here today with my grandson, Tyrone Mayer Jr. We are here representing the family of Barbara Johns. My sister and my brothers and I are so pleased to learn of the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. It is a symbol of hate, bigotry, and division.

Robert Johns: (24:02)
… bigotry and division. We are now walking into a new era of acceptance, respect and inclusion. It is young people, a new generation that are leading us and I’m so proud of my daughter, Shanance, and her children, including Tyrone here, get to see this and all my nieces and nephews as well. Thank you, Governor Northam and the administration for the work that you’re doing for keeping your word. And though we have so much more work to do, this is a great start. Thank you, Dr. Janice Underwood for you and your staff for the work that you’re doing. We are so proud, the John’s family is proud and the Commonwealth of Virginia is proud. And I’d like to add one more thing, for all those who are protesting, I would encourage you in the Commonwealth of Virginia, throughout this country, please register to vote because this is what it’s going to take. Thank you very much.

Speaker 3: (25:45)
Morning, everyone. It is indeed an honor to be here with you all today at this defining moment in history. I would like to thank governor Northam for his courageous leadership at a time when our country needs to be brought together and also be brought forward out of a dark past. I think it speaks volumes that you would stand up right now with one voice and with clarity to say that we need to be very different as a Commonwealth and as a country than what we have been. In 2020, this is the first year of the next 400 years in Virginia and in America. And we now get to determine who we are going to be as a people, as a Commonwealth and as a country, whether or not we will be shackled by our history, whether or not we will continue to exclude people, to treat them unequally, to take people outside of the scope of the promise of this nation and its founding documents.

Speaker 3: (26:43)
And today in Virginia, I believe we are making a down payment on a new promise to the people of Virginia and of America because as the governor mentioned, we have many more Confederate monuments than just the statues that exist here in the city of Richmond, around the Commonwealth of Virginia. Those Confederate monuments include substandard schools the kids are going to that are dilapidated, that are shrines to an ideology of inferiority of black and brown children. Those Confederate monuments include a broken healthcare system where African Americans and minorities have worse health outcomes. Those Confederate monuments include substandard housing and eviction rates that are incredibly high, destabilizing families and communities. They include a broken criminal justice system where African Americans are overrepresented by three and a half times in our prison population. And so today as we make that down payment it’s with the recognition, Governor Northam eloquently stated that there was so much more work to be done.

Speaker 3: (27:50)
And I’m grateful to all the tremendous leaders who have come out here today, who have stood up with moral courage, who have been voices for so many years for change. And today that change is upon us because of the work that so many have done. I see Pastor Wesleyan in his prophetic voice, and I want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership over many years and calling us to the better angels of our nature. I want to thank my friend, Reverend Robert W. Lee IV, who joined me last year in protesting the honoring of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the Senate of Virginia. And I’m proud that with the governor’s leadership and our general assembly working together, we have eliminated Lee Jackson Day here in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time in 131 years because of that leadership. Thank you Governor.

Speaker 3: (28:43)
And we no longer in the Senate of Virginia honor Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson and adjourn in their memory. But this is the culmination of the work of so many people over so long a period of time. And last year in Virginia in 2019, we commemorated 400 years since the first meeting of the general assembly of Virginia in Jamestown in 1619, but we also commemorated 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were forced to land right here in Virginia, Fort Monroe, Hampton, Point Comfort. And those have been the dual strands of darkness and light that have run through the veins of the Commonwealth of Virginia and through our nation for four centuries. And you can draw a direct line from that 400 year mark through slavery and segregation and the black codes and discrimination and massive resistance in the death of George Floyd on a curb in Minneapolis, in the death of Brianna Taylor sleeping in her home and the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed and hunted down like prey on the streets of Georgia.

Speaker 3: (29:48)
You can draw a direct line from that point to everything that we’re experiencing today. But the good news is that we can be different in this first year of next 400 years. We can take this country and our Commonwealth on a different course. And I think that’s what today is all about. And so this is something that impacts every single one of us, regardless of your color, creed, faith, nationality, or origin. We’re witnessing a moment in history where we all get to change, to rise, to build people and communities up and not tear people and communities down. And so tomorrow, this is also very personal for me and my family, tomorrow will mark 222 years to the day that my great, great, great grandfather, Simon Fairfax was freed from slavery on June 5, 1798 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Freed by the ninth Lord Fairfax.

Speaker 3: (30:41)
And so this is something that impacts every single one of us, but I am proud that my nine year old daughter and 10 year old son will not have to grow up in a Virginia and in a world that does not value them, that their lives will be put on a pedestal, that their lives will matter. And that the lives of every black and brown person in Virginia and in America will matter and will have hope and will have opportunity for change. So thank you, Virginia for standing up at this moment in history. Thank you, governor for your tremendous leadership. And America has its best days ahead of us because of what we’re doing right now. So God bless you all. And thank you very much.

Speaker 4: (31:27)
Thank you, governor for your leadership. These past few days have been hard and they have been painful. They have forced white Americans to confront the safety and privilege that our skin color affords us, a feeling that black Americans have not had the luxury of knowing. The weight of fear and pain that our society places on the shoulders of black Americans is immoral and unsustainable. In conversations I’ve had over the past week I’ve heard so many times words like tired and exhausted. No one should have to live in the fear that they, their children or their loved ones could be killed if they do something as simple as go for a walk or run an errand. I can’t personally know the weight of that fear, but I recognize it and I’m listening. We must dismantle the systemic racism that permeates our communities and build a country that is fair and just and safe for all people. And that includes removing the painful reminders of a racist past that stain our Commonwealth.

Speaker 4: (32:49)
These grandiose monuments memorializing a racist insurrection do not belong in our public spaces. They do not deserve to stand as a representation of our Commonwealth and our people. The way we tell our history as a people profoundly influences the way that each of us view our role within our society. When people are constantly surrounded by symbols of white supremacy and hate it introduces and reinforces the false and poisonous notion that there is a hierarchy of races. How do you possibly explain these statues to a black child? What do you tell them about why it’s there? You can’t. It’s indefensible. And how do you tell a black man or a black woman that they’re going to get a fair and impartial trial when the entrance to the courthouse is literally blocked by a monument to a movement that sought to keep them enslaved? Virginia has hundreds of public Confederate symbols, including statues monuments, school names, and until recently, a state holiday. These portrayals of the Confederacy and its leaders as grand heroic figures distort our understanding of history and glorify the oppression and injustice that these men fought a war over. They were raised as part of a deliberate and intentional effort to intimidate and degrade black Virginians and suppress the growing civil rights movement. And now they must come down as part of a deliberate and intentional effort to heal and move forward together. This is an important step because symbols do matter. But taking this monument down will not stop police abuse, close education or health disparities, or erase the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of our country. There is much, much more to do to heal the pain that so many Virginians have been feeling for far too long. We have a long road ahead of us, but we cannot allow our fellow Virginians to bear this burden that we have forced them to carry any longer. We need to do the work to make Virginia the open, welcoming, fair, and just place that I know it can be.

Diana Bryant: (35:35)
My name is Diana Bryant. I am a student from Charlottesville and I wrote the original petition in 2016 to remove the Robert E. Lee statue. I want to first start by honoring the ancestors and my own personal family, because they are the shoulders that I stand on. I want to be clear that there will be no …

Diana Bryant: (36:03)
I want to be clear that there will be no healing or reconciliation until we have equity, until we have fully dismantled the systems that oppress black and brown people. And the only way that we can move forward is if we center the voices of the people who are the most marginalized. Until we are able to fully come to the table with activists and organizers who have been working day in and day out to organize their communities, we will not be able to move forward for progress. And so I want to make space to intentionally thank the activists in Charlottesville who have put in decades worth of work to get us to where we are today. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. Without a little bit of inconvenience, without a little bit of making people uncomfortable, we wouldn’t be here.

Diana Bryant: (36:59)
And so today I want to say it is no longer adequate to walk away from having the tough conversations. It is no longer okay to walk away from racist dialogue because you don’t want to cause controversy. Lives are on the line. Our future is on the line. And so until we are all actively working to dismantle those systems, we are complicit. Until we work to amplify the voices of black women, black LGBTQ folks, undocumented communities, we are still not doing it right. And so I wanted to keep my remarks brief, but I certainly wanted to end them by saying Black Lives Matter. Thank you.

Governor Ralph Northam: (38:14)
[ Sienna 00:00:38:15], and to all of you that spoke and to all of you that are here today, just again, thank you so much for being with us. I’ll be glad to take some questions.

Brian Palmer: (38:23)
Governor, Brian Palmer writing for the Free Press. This is a powerful symbolic move. And I say that as a descendant of enslaved people, and someone who has [inaudible 00:38:34] pretty much every county in Virginia to find out how much money has been spent on these monuments and [inaudible 00:38:39] the City of Richmond. But what people are asking for on the street now is concrete steps to address police brutality, concrete steps toward racial justice, a comprehensive plan. So this is powerfully symbolic, but what are those plans statewide [inaudible 00:38:59] look at police brutality. I mean there’s $3.4 million recently invested in putting school resource officers into schools while Minneapolis is canceling its contract with police.

Governor Ralph Northam: (39:11)
Yes.

Brian Palmer: (39:13)
Where are we going here toward those concrete steps towards genuine racial justice?

Governor Ralph Northam: (39:17)
That’s a great question. The question is about what are we doing in Virginia to address police brutality and really prevent what the world witnessed in Minneapolis. And I think the first step is to realize that we have a problem and then to have people come together and have a dialogue. When I say people come together, people like myself, police chiefs, legislators, all these types of people. And talk about how we turn, what we have experienced, how we turn words into action. And so I think there’s some very concrete steps that we can and plan to take in Virginia. One of those, and we’ve been working on for the past year or so is diversifying our police forces, our staffs. That needs to happen. Having more interaction with the communities, letting people out in communities know that that police officers are there to help them, not to hurt them. Techniques such as deescalating. How do we train better for those situations? Body cameras. We’ve addressed that in Virginia and we’ll continue to work on that.

Governor Ralph Northam: (40:28)
So again, there are a number of things that we have been and will continue to work on in Virginia to really address the police brutality. And I think from a cooperative point of view and just in discussions I’ve had, everybody wants to be part of this. We cannot allow, we as a society cannot allow, what we have witnessed, not just in Minneapolis, but in all the other instances as well. So now’s the time to bring people together, to take words but to turn them into action. And that’s what we’ll continue to do in Virginia.

Alan: (41:02)
Governor, can you address the timing of this? I mean, you were asked about it Tuesday. Why now?

Governor Ralph Northam: (41:09)
Alan, the question is why now? And I think it’s pretty apparent as we look around this country, there is pain. Certainly, Alan, as a physician, I can recognize the pain along with a lot of other people and now is the time to heal. So we made this decision. We’re proud of this decision, and we’re taking a new direction in Virginia.

Andre: (41:34)
Governor, there’s some folks who think that by moving all of these monuments, there will be a great financial loss to the state, up to 10 to 12 billions of dollars. Could you respond to that? [inaudible 00:41:46] one sidebar, for those non people of color or non-African Americans who say, “This talk of white privilege, it doesn’t exist.” Can they be convinced? What would you say to convince them?

Governor Ralph Northam: (42:00)
The first question, Andre, was the expense. And while there will be an expense to removing these Confederate monuments, I think there’s a much greater expense when we don’t welcome people to Virginia, when we aren’t inclusive in Virginia. So, this is symbolic, but to let people around the world and especially in this country know that Virginia is a place of inclusiveness. It’s a place of welcoming people. Our doors are open, our lights are on. That’s the most important message, and there’s no price to that. And so we’re certainly more than willing to use the resources that it will take to take these monuments down and to also have the discussion of what should happen to them as we move forward.

Governor Ralph Northam: (42:50)
Your second question was what about white oppression? White privilege. Thank you. And I think Andre, the answer to that is, it’s about education. It’s about telling the truth of 400 years of history here in this country. And while there have been some good things there are also many things that aren’t good. And I think that certainly as I’ve gone around and listened and learned, and as I said earlier, the more we learn, the more we can do. I encourage all Virginians, white, black, doesn’t matter what color they are, I encourage all of them to learn of our history and to learn how hurtful and listen to people tell their stories of how hurtful these things are. And if we know that history then we can move forward. And so that’s what, certainly as governor, and I know a lot of the other leaders here, will do as we move forward.

Reporter: (43:48)
Governor, can you provide more details on what is actually going to be removed from the site and also what’s going to happen to some of the Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality messages that have been graffitied on to the monument?

Governor Ralph Northam: (44:03)
Yeah. The question is the step-wise fashion. The first step of removing the monument, the first step is to talk with our contractors and make plans in the coming weeks to remove the actual bronze part of the statue. That will be placed in a warehouse. And then we’ll have discussion as far as what to do with the pedestal. Will we put another monument on top of the pedestal? So that discussion will continue as we move forward. And your second part of your question?

Reporter: (44:35)
What is going to be done with some of the messages that have been graffitied onto it? The Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality messages.

Governor Ralph Northam: (44:40)
We were in the midst of those discussions.

Greg: (44:43)
Governor, can you describe the process of making this decision? Was there an image you saw or something someone said to you that made you decide, “Okay, I’ve got to go ahead and act.”

Governor Ralph Northam: (44:54)
Greg, as I said, as a physician, I can recognize pain. There’s tremendous pain. It’s been going on for a long time, but it was brought into particular focus in Minneapolis. And then we’ve seen the protests here in Virginia, not only in Richmond, but in other cities and towns across Virginia. So the pain is real. I recognize that. And so I made the decision. As far as time-wise, this is something we’ve been working on the legalities of for probably over a year with my lead counsel. But I made the decision Tuesday afternoon, just because of what I see. And as I said earlier, it’s a time for Virginia, it’s time for this country to heal. And when there are symbols of divisiveness such as these statues are, in order to heal that divisiveness, the statutes need to come down.