“Systemic Racism?” Damned Right!

By Peter Galuszka

There has been much debate on this blog regarding whether there is “systemic racism” in Virginia and the rest of the country.

It’s a crucial question in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American who was killed on video by a white Minneapolis police officer two weeks ago. The killing sparked nationwide demonstrations, some rioting and a big rethink of race relations.

Regarding is “system racism,” my answer in a resounding “yes” although I agree there has been significant progress in race relations since the since the 1960s.

A few examples:

  • Virginia was the embarkation point for American’s first slaves.
  • Slavery was a key social, economic and political institution for several hundred years.
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery. Most battles were in Virginia.
  • The state embraced Jim Crow laws and kept them for years. These made it crimes for people of different races to go to school together, go on public transit together, sit together in restaurants, get married and so on.
  • There were plenty of lynchings in Virginia. Many went unpunished.

  • After a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 banned school desegregation, Virginia’s white leaders instituted their “Massive Resistance” policy of keeping schools segregated. A school system in Prince Edward County closed for years rather than integrate.
  • The rise of automobiles and superhighways let whites flee cities for suburbs while new roads destroyed African-American neighborhoods. One example of Richmond’s Jackson Ward, which had been a thriving place for the African-American middle class. Many African-Americans were pushed into substandard public housing
  • The state, according to NBC News, has more Confederate related names and memorials than any other state. There are 110 Confederate monuments and 244 symbols.
  • In 2015, Edwin Slipek, senior contributing editor at Richmond’s Style Weekly and a good friend and colleague of mine, amassed a collection of public entities in Richmond related to Confederate names. Here is his story:

“Nowhere does the recent national furor over Confederate flags, monuments and icons hit home more deeply than in Richmond.

Here, statues, schools, streets, parks and neighborhoods are among the things named to glorify the Southern leaders of the horrifically bloody war that came to an end 150 years ago.

This leads to an intriguing question: What would an endgame entail if the former Capital of the Confederacy and its suburbs erased all of the associated names of publicly-owned places and monuments? The list of possibilities might surprise you (or maybe not). Here is an incomplete inventory:

Dr. Simon Baruch
Baruch Auditorium, VCU Medical Center

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard
Beauregard Avenue

Attorney General Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin marker designating his home

Col. Algernon Sidney Buford
Buford Road

Joseph Bryan
Joseph Bryan statue in Monroe Park
Joseph Bryan Park
Bryan Park Avenue

President Jefferson Davis
Lee-Davis High School
Jefferson Davis Highway
Davis bust in the State Capitol
Davis monument on Monument Avenue
Jefferson Davis Elementary School
Davis Avenue
Jackson-Davis Elementary School

Maj. James Dooley
Dooley Street
Dooley Wing, Richmond Public Library

Maj. Lewis Ginter
Ginter Street
Ginter Park
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Ginter Park Elementary School
Ginter Park branch, Richmond Public Library

Gen. A.P. Hill
Hill Monument Parkway
A.P. Hill monument at Laburnum and Hermitage
Fort A.P. Hill

Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson
Jackson monument on Monument Avenue
Jackson bust in the State Capitol
Jackson statue in Capitol Square
Jackson Avenue
Stonewall Avenue
Jackson-Davis Elementary School

Gen. Joseph Johnston
Marker marking the wounding of Johnston
Johnston bust in State Capitol

Gen. Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee Bridge
Lee Monument on Monument Avenue
Lee statue in the State Capitol
Lee Street
Lee Avenue (two streets in Henrico County)
Lee Court
Lee-Davis High School
Stewart-Lee House marker
Robert E. Lee Camp marker, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Gen. James Longstreet
Longstreet Avenue

Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury
Maury House at VCU Medical Center
Maury Monument on Monument Avenue
Maury bust in the State Capitol
Maury Street
Maury Road
Maury Cemetery

Dr. Hunter H. McGuire
McGuire’s Veterans Hospital
Dr. Hunter McGuire monument in Capitol Square
The McGuire Clinic
McGuire Park Circle

Col. John S. Mosby
Mosby Court
Mosby School
Mosby Elementary School
Mosby Street

Gen. George E. Pickett
Pickett Avenue

Adm. Raphael Semmes
Semmes Avenue

Gen. William “Extra Billy” Smith
William Smith statue in Capitol Square

Vice President Alexander Stephens
Stephens bust in State Capitol
Home of Alexander Stephens marker at VCU Medical Center

Gen. J.E.B. Stuart
Stuart bust in State Capitol
Stuart Monument on Monument Avenue
Marker at site of Stuart’s death
Stuart Avenue
Stuart Drive
Stuart Elementary School

Capt. Sally Tompkins
Marker of Tompkins’ hospital

Confederate Congressman-elect John Tyler
John Tyler Memorial Highway
John Tyler Community College
Tyler Road

Gen. W. C. Wickham
W.C. Wickham statue in Monroe Park

Gen. George Winder
Winder Street

Gen. Henry Alexander Wise
Wise Street

Confederate Avenue
Rebels sports teams of Douglas Freeman High School
The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Howitzers Monument at Park and Harrison streets
Oakwood Cemetery Confederate memorial
Confederate Memorial Chapel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Home for Needy Confederate Women, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Battle of Drewry’s Bluff historical marker
Second Battle of Drewry’s Bluff historical marker
Battery Dantzler historical marker
Howlett’s Line historical marker
Proctor’s First Fight historical marker
Union Army Checked historical marker
Home of Samuel Preston Moore historical marker
Red Water Creek Engagement historical marker
Merrimac Road
Confederates sports teams of Lee-Davis High School 

So, please don’t tell me there is no ‘systemic racism.”