Arthur Ashe Lives

Letter From Virginia

As widely reported last year, a statue of Arthur Ashe has joined those of the Confederate heroes that grace Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Were the issue only, or even principally, the desire of Richmonders to commemorate the life and accomplishments of their native son, the proposed memorial would have excited little debate. But these days, even the dead are subjected to political bickering and intrigue.

Controversy surfaced not about whether to erect a statue to honor Ashe, which for most residents was acceptable and even desirable, but rather about where to put it. Inevitably, attention focused on Monument Avenue. Anticipating and, indeed, welcoming a showdown, the national media responded with predictable glee. The juxtaposition of evil Confederates and offended blacks was apparently too delicious for most of them to overlook. Would the citizens of Richmond cling thoughtlessly to an outworn and vicious racism, pundits wondered, or would they open their minds and hearts to "racial healing"—whatever that is—put aside their resentment, and embrace at least the conciliation of black and white?

But the emphasis on racial antagonism, which in fairness some city officials tried to downplay, obscured the real story, and not only from worthies in the media. With the vox populi still ringing in their ears, the Richmond City Council voted seven to zero, with one absentee and one abstention,...

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