ATLANTA -- Under state law, local governments cannot take down Confederate monuments. But Gov. Nathan Deal predicts the legislature will take up a bill that could change that. Deal also warned against second guessing those who put up confederate monuments a century ago.
Gov. Deal said Wednesday he hopes folks will pay attention next Monday, when a statue is raised outside the Capitol in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet around the corner, there will still be a statue of Joseph Gordon, a Confederate general and reputed Ku Klux Klansman.
And if folks want to take that statue down, Deal sounded a note of caution. "I think we have to be very, very careful that we do not second guess everything. Because we live in an evolving society. And what may be important to us today may not be that important to the next generation," Deal said.
At the state Capitol, there are countless statues and paintings of Confederate figures and Georgia white supremacists who ruled the state for much of its history.
But outside the Capitol, there's also a statue of former president Jimmy Carter. Eliminate the confederate figures now, and what's to stop a future generation from deciding Jimmy Carter's statue is no longer appropriate?
"So we have to be, I think, respectful of the decisions of those who have gone before us and respectful of the things they thought were important," Deal said. "That doesn’t mean we have to celebrate everything associated with them. But I do think we should all appreciate our history."
State Representative Erica Thomas (D-Austell), a member of the legislative black caucus, says Deal’s words are a tough sell now—in light of Charlottesville – and especially when so many public statues in Georgia depict white supremacy and a war to defend the enslavement of black people.
"Making people walk by something that incites hate to me is not respecting history," Thomas said. "Yes, take the statues down. But we also need to talk about how are we doing to come together as one and how we’re not going to put one race over another race."
Thomas predicted removal of the statues would be an ongoing argument, but one she doesn't expect to win in the next five years.
Doug – Thomas also predicts confederate statues in Georgia aren’t likely to come down anytime soon, though she says she and other members of the legislative black caucus, and its white supporters, will work to do it.