Thursday, August 17, 2017

We Need New Monuments

If you follow my blog you already know that I ran all the way out of patience with this so-called president and the league of unqualified miscreants he calls his administration all the way back in January. Every day there has been a new insult to injury. Every day there are insipid op-eds and social media posts by people who either lack the critical thinking skills, the awareness, the fortitude, or the moral courage to stand for anything calling for everybody to just get along with their oppressors, dealing in mindless false equivalencies, saying that it's not that bad, telling us we complain too much about "identity politics" and need to "get over it," talking about how shocked they are, interviewing the fools who voted for Trump to try to force the rest of us to empathize with them, or saying that we shouldn't punch Nazis. And if that wasn't enough, the incidents in Charlottesville happened last weekend. All because of the removal of a Confederate monument. A monument that, like so many others, was not put in place until an era when the Black residents of the south were being subjugated to Jim Crow laws designed to put us in the place that our oppressors believed we belonged in, the lowest caste of society. The statues of these murderous figures were installed in public places as a reminder, as was the Confederate flag. But somehow it's supposed to be about "heritage, not hate." These monuments are not just in the South, either. They are all over the country, even in Boston and Brooklyn.

And then on Monday, Trump asked, “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” For once, albeit unintentionally, he asked a good question. A pastor here in Chicago wants the city to remove the monuments of George Washington and Andrew Jackson and rename their respective parks. But perhaps we wouldn't have to completely change the names of the parks. There are plenty of notable African-Americans whose last names are Washington and Jackson as a result of the enslavement of their ancestors. We even have a few from Chicago, like Mahalia Jackson and Harold Washington.

I think that it would be great to remove monuments to unworthy ideals and replace them with something better.

Samuel Sinyangwe's tweet about this really got me thinking that he might be on to something. About a month ago he posted a photo of a monument in Barbados that prompted a response from people all over as they shared images of statues celebrating liberation from slavery.

Bussa Emancipation Statue in Bridgetown, Barbados
 Wikimedia Commons

He wrote an article about it for Vox that is well worth reading.

African-American artists have always had to build our own monuments. We have done it in order to celebrate ourselves and memorialize our heroes in a society that has never honored us. But due to the segregation of the art world, it is rare to see such images outside of galleries and art shows with a focus on Black artists. But why not a public place? And think of all the artists an initiative for new public art of a monumental scale would employ!

Of course, this is only a symbolic gesture. Changing monuments is still not enough, but it would be one way to get this country to begin to acknowledge its disturbing history and all the consequences that still linger with us today and the work of restitution that still needs to be done.

Monday, August 14, 2017

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