Now is the time to talk about replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee, as iconic as it is controversial, from its perch at the center of Lee Circle, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday (June 24) during a gathering held to highlight his racial reconciliation initiative.
"Symbols really do matter," he said. "Symbols should reflect who we really are as a people.
"We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity."
[Listen to Landrieu's speech on why Lee Circle should be renamed, or read a full article on his announcement here. ]
The slaying last week of nine black people in a historic Charleston, S.C., church at the hands of Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, has sparked heated debate about whether the Confederate battle flag and other symbols associated with the country's racist past ought to be displayed in public places.
Just two days ago, Landrieu was noncommittal when asked whether the Lee statue should be removed, though he called for a larger discussion on it and other Confederate monuments in New Orleans. The 2018 Tricentennial Commission, whose tasks include addressing the city's complex racial history ahead of its 300th anniversary, would also examine the propriety of the monuments continued display on public property, the mayor's office said.
"These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols -- statues, monuments, street names, and more -- still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world," a spokesman said in a statement. "Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future."