EDITORIAL: Monuments in the Age of Reckoning

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Perhaps it wasn’t essential that Senior Editor Jordan Green join the media scrum outside the Old Forsyth Courthouse on Tuesday morning to contribute what amounted to a piece of commodity spot news, which is generally not our style.

But it was important for Triad City Beat to be there for this symbolic moment, and equally important for Green to see it with his own eyes, as he did the dismantling of Silent Sam on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

In writing these first drafts of American history, we’ve taken to calling this period the Age of Reckoning, in which we re-examine our heroes, our values, our institutions, and find them wanting. So many of the things we constructed to carry us through the last century are just not cutting it in this one.

And there is a strong push among Americans to make things right. #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Public shaming. Blackface apologies. They’re all a part of the Age of Reckoning.

This Confederate monument had stood prominently outside the courthouse in downtown Winston-Salem for more than a hundred years. Imagine how many African Americans glanced upwards at its towering figure before they went into a federal courtroom, a visual reminder of the pecking order. 

Those who dispute the intentions of this statue need look only at the words spoken ceremoniously upon its erection.

Alfred Moore Waddell got the keynote — the man who led a mob of thousands of white people in 1898 to overthrow a duly elected government in what would be known as the Wilmington Riot.

It’s telling that its removal from the public eye was not particularly controversial among people who actually live in Winston-Salem. All of the fringe groups who defended its presence come from way out of town.

And with their beloved statue gone, there is really no reason for them to come back and visit.

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