House Votes to Remove Confederate Statues From U.S. Capitol

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This Wednesday, July 22, the House voted to remove controversial Confederate statues from the U.S Capitol.

Amid Black Lives Matter, a movement dedicated to confronting, curbing, and combating ingrained racism, we are seeing the removal of many Confederate monuments. This hopeful removal is long-overdue, civil rights activists have repeatedly pushed for the replacement or transference of Confederate statues that commemorate slavery and white supremacy.

This proposed legislation would replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney with a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice. Justice Taney authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which ruled that African Americans could not claim U.S. citizenship. The bill would also remove three deeply divisive statues—Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke—and require states to replace their Confederate statues in the Capitol. 

The public rallies in support of this legislation.

Many individuals, especially Democrats and social justice warriors, are elated by this news. Democrats previously presented this bill as a way to honor the late civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (a man who grappled with racial adversity throughout his life). Many people perceive this anticipated removal as a notable effort by Congress to finally address the nationwide movement against systemic racism and affirm their dedication to racial equality. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer commented, “Today will be a historic day in the history of the Congress of the United States and of our country…”  He elaborated, “The House is taking a long-overdue and historic step to ensure that individuals we honor in our Capitol represent our nation’s highest ideals and not the worst in its history.”

Despite extraordinary, bilateral support for this bill in the House, it is unclear whether the GOP-controlled Senate will back the legislation. To date, Senate Republican leaders have refused to take action on the issue, maintaining that the removal of statues should be at the state’s discretion. Likewise, it is unlikely that President Donald Trump would sign the bill due to his traditional touting of Confederate symbolism and belief that Confederate-era emblems are patriotic. 

As we continue to reach for racial justice, we are forced to engage in a difficult national dialogue regarding historic monuments, names, and emblems that celebrate the Confederacy. We are forced to reexamine their significance and how their preservation may nurture racist rhetoric and support and safeguard structures that reinforce racist ideologies. Only time will tell the fate of this bill.