Gillespie says he is glad to see that Virginians “engaging in an ongoing, thoughtful conversation about these sensitive issues, one marked by respect and understanding.”
Gillespie’s statements come after his Democratic opponent Ralph Northam said that while he believes decisions about historical statues should be made at the local level, they should ultimately be removed.
“From our very founding, Virginia has played a central role in American history,” Gillespie said. “We are home to Mt. Vernon, Monticello and Montpelier. Jamestown, Yorktown, First Manassas, Fredericksburg, Appomattox. The Loving Case, Moton High School, Governor Douglas Wilder.”
We have been on the right side of history, and on the wrong side of history. The Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, our Constitution, being central to Brown v. Board of Education (Moton High School), electing the nation’s first black governor, and in many other instances, Virginia and Virginians have been leaders in expanding freedom and equality.
But seeking to sustain the evil institution of slavery in the Civil War, denying a woman of one race the right to marry a man of another, opposing desegregation of our schools through massive resistance, are some examples of Virginia and Virginians having been leaders in oppressing people and denying them their freedom.
Our history is our history. Mostly for the better, but at times for the worse, our Commonwealth has been at the forefront of historic events, and Virginians central players in them. I know that for many of my fellow Virginians, statues of Confederate soldiers are offensive and should come down. I know that for many others, they are a reminder of heritage and we cannot erase history by taking them down. In my view, the approach underway in the city of Richmond is a good example for other cities and counties to follow. While not removing statues, they are weighing how to put them in proper historical context.
There is a balance that can be struck here, one that recognizes the outsized role Virginia has played in our history, while acknowledging that we have not always been on its right side. Rather than glorifying their objects, the statues should be instructional. While ensuring that Confederate statues are not exalting them but educating about them, we should do more to elevate Virginia’s history in expanding freedom and equality by extolling the many Virginians who played critical roles in this regard.”
Gillespie added that Virginia is a “diverse Commonwealth,” with lots of different perceptions and values. He also noted that “90 percent of the torch-carrying, shield-bearing white supremacist and neoNazi mob in Charlottesville on Saturday.”
“Virginia is better and stronger than them,” he said. “In the aftermath of Hateful Saturday in Charlottesville, I know we can have this discussion about our shared history and how we recognize it in a thoughtful and respectful manner worthy of Virginia.”