University of Texas at Austin started taking down Confederate statues last night

In what feels like a step in the right direction, it’s been reported that the University of Texas at Austin has began taking down its Confederate statues. UT President Greg Fenves ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and three other Confederate figures — Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan, and James Stephen Hogg — from a main area of campus on Monday, saying they had become symbols of white supremacy and were being taken down to avoid confrontations.

The decision to have the Confederate statues removed overnight may seem a bit fast, but Fenves says he has spoken at length about taking steps after the events in Virginia.

Last weekend, a large group of white supremacists, carrying firearms and torches, gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a confederate statue in Emancipation Park. The weekend turned tragic when Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman, was killed and 19 others injured after an alleged supporter of the hateful movement plowed a car into a group of peaceful protesters demonstrating.

"The horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," Fenves said in a statement.

“Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry,” he continued.

This isn’t the first time the university has dealt with this issue. Back in 2015, UT removed a statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis that was often being vandalized, following the deadly rampage by white supremacist Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina.

With only ten days left until students return to classes, Fenves said, “We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus. As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all.”

It’s a small step but one in the right direction nonetheless. We applaud UT for taking a stand and for being committed to creating a better learning environment for its students.