Aug 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Richmond mayor: Proof of change driven by Black Lives Matter will take time

Screenshot of Mike Allen and Mayor Levar Stoney speaking together

Axios' Mike Allen and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. Photo: Axios

Structural, long-term change is needed before the massive protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement can be seen as a "racial reckoning," Richmond, Virgina, Mayor Levar Stoney said at an Axios virtual event on Wednesday.

What he's saying: "The proof will be in the pudding," Stoney said. "If the divides and gaps between Black and brown people, and white people, still remain in 2030, then all of this was for naught. Then we missed our moment."

  • "We've got to reduce the gaps in education, in housing, in health care. ... We can do the hard work of ripping out systemic racism and every system out there — health care, housing, education. And that, to me, will be the test of whether this has been a true reckoning on race."

Why it matters: Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, and statues commemorating that history lined the city's Monument Avenue. Stoney used emergency powers to have nearly all of the statues of Confederate war heroes removed after protestors against the death of George Floyd and police excessive use of force were getting hurt while tearing them down.

  • "It matters to me because these monuments are symbols of racism and hate, but for a lot of people, these were seen as symbols of heritage. And folks would come to me and say, you know Levar, this is your heritage. And I would look back at them like 'not my heritage!' Your heritage would have me in chains, would have me in bondage."
  • "And to me, I think for far too long, Richmonders, Virginians, Americans have been told a false story about the end of the Civil War or why the Civil War occurred, and these monuments basically put Black people in their place. They were meant to intimidate."
  • "I know in 2020 that my city is better than that, I know my state is better than that, and I definitely know that my country is better than that."
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