Why We Should All Celebrate the Rumors of War
“You wanna know my name or the name of my horse, you ask me.”
So declares Django in the Tarantino epic, astride a mighty steed, towering above the plantation 0wner and his hold of white supremacy. The whole movie, town folk, plantation owners, and enslaved peoples question why the hell he is on a horse in the first place, cooly striding into town, the ultimate 1800s middle finger. He doesn’t belong there; only white men ride horses into town. Only white men are allowed to tower over others, to strike fear into others.
Not anymore. And not anymore in 2019 Richmond, Virginia.
In 2017, even before the terrorist attack in Charlottesville (yes, let’s call it what it is), there has been a debate in the Commonwealth and across the greater south. Do we take these relics of the Confederacy, these shrines to a time of glory that never was, these testaments to treason, down? Or do we leave them up for educational purposes?
Kehinde Wiley has found a third solution. Right by Monument Avenue, where the ghosts of the Confederacy loom large to tower over Richmonders and try to strike fear into people of color, Wiley rode his bronze magnificence into town.
“Rumors of War” depicts a young black man, in modern street wear, astride a mighty steed. He rides into town tall, head cocked towards the sky in defiance of an ugly Virginian history that kept him from riding into town in the first place.
Unfortunately, there are still people in the Commonwealth and the country who want to keep him from getting on the horse, to a position of power, who want to keep horses for themselves for reasons not of white supremacy, but white insecurity.
The genius of Wiley’s work, and the genius of this addition to the city of Richmond, is that it celebrates the Virginia and America of the very real Now, not the mythical Then.
The Confederacy and the Good Ol’ Boy DixieCrat South was never great. The Confederacy existed out of terror and treason and racism. The Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States has a history that better men and women try to overcome. Men and women of all colors that try to strive towards a more perfect state and union. The juxtaposition of this powerful monument by the statues of looming Confederate generals and politicians perfectly captures the ever evolving history of Virginia — who we were and who we can be — all in a block.
“Rumors of War” and Mr. Wiley should be celebrated by all sides and by all Virginians — for moving us toward our better angels, for creating a symbol of empowerment out of the shadows of oppression. Richmonders, tip your hat. Freedom rides high on a mighty steed.