History or Myth: Statues and the Fight Against Racist Symbolism
History or Myth:
Statues and the Fight Against Racist Symbolism
Written for JESPIONNE
Olivia Wane Fitzgerald
Black Lives Matter.
The 2012 events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy from Florida, sparked a movement that would take the United States by storm. When Martin’s killer was acquitted; the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was born. Michael Brown’s death almost a year later in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Garner in New York made racial injustice increasingly
apparent in American society; protest after protest shocked the country. The BLM movement involved itself at every step and is often credited with turning into the modern civil rights movement. In 2020, the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively once again saw BLM activists at the forefront of fighting racial injustice and inequality.
African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people”
The protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and other allied movements have led to the discussion of racist statues and monuments, and the representation of the oppression of countless victims. Unparalleled action to remove racist statues around the United States has been taken, for good reason. The question on every American’s mind now is how far should one go to change the past, and where does the removal of statues end?
The United States has a history, fraught with violence, oppression, and exploitation. Displayed through statues – historical figures, heroes, and villains can all be found cast in bronze. These statues all have their place in history, and many fail to realize the important symbolism they have in the United States. Used extensively to oppress and restrain the lives of African Americans after the civil war, racist statues were one of the many focal points of Jim Crow efforts after the Civil War.
A potent weapon, Jim Crow furthered segregation efforts across the south and encouraged the construction of numerous statues of Civil War generals, slave owners, and politicians reinforcing racism and discrimination. People like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forest were aggrandized and made larger than life, changing how history was thought of. Still sometimes called the War of Northern Aggression in the South today, these statues create a chance for history to move beyond a learning experience to that of encouragement, a chance for horrible actions to be immortalized as heroism. Is the removal of such racist statues good for the public?
The answer is unequivocally yes.
Peaceful protests across the United States have resulted in the destruction and vandalism of several statues, including those of Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus, both thought as racist in origin.
Among the vandalized stand monuments dedicated to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kościuszko. Never representative of any racism, these monuments have become memorials to misdirected anger and history forgotten. The 54th Massachusetts, an all African American regiment with White officers fought in during the Civil War. During the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, the regiment suffered 40% casualties, including its commanding officer Robert G. Shaw. The battle and regiment are memorialized in the film Glory (1989); the regiment was an inspiration for many African American men willing to join the fight against the Confederate States, and the monument serves to display the sacrifice of African Americans to win their freedom.
Kościuszko, a Polish volunteer and brigadier general during the revolutionary war, left all his US possessions to the education and freedom of US slaves upon leaving the US for the final time. Leading a doomed uprising against Russian occupation of Poland, in 1794 he granted Polish serfs civil rights in the Proclamation of Połaniec. Kościuszko would later die in 1817 not having seen his dream of a free Poland. His last will was never realized in the United States, and it was several years before his estate saw any benefit for African Americans, when a school was opened in his name. The desecration of his statue is a testament to the lack of knowledge about his efforts to change United States society.
Is Change Possible?
Anger against racism, discrimination, and oppression is always justified. Targeting monuments, such as those of Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus, is an easy message. The conservation of those who attempted to change not only the United States, but the world for the better should be our priority. Our inspiration, as a country, should come from our monuments, and be represented in our monuments. As such, the removal of Confederate statues is not only right, but necessary.
Maintaining art, symbolism, and history should be behind every removal of a statue, and they need to be evaluated for their historical significance. Easily detectable, a statue of great historical significance should be preserved,
placed in a museum to be learned about, or on a Civil War battlefield, where they can be identified with the defeat of slavery. History is important. Removed statues should be replaced with plaques dedicated to history, where lessons can be encouraged without racist attachment. A statue represents a window into the past; where humanity has been, what makes society today, and where humans can go in the future. It is a chance to look upon the face of those who came before; a statue representing oppression and racism cannot be ignored. It is a fight everyday to gain recognition of the past, and this fight will continue for the foreseeable future. It is important while the fight for justice continues, those who fought for progress and change not be forgotten.
Two days after President Macron extended confinement until 11 May, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government had agreed to boost a 45-billion-euro fund to support the economy through the epidemic to 110 billion euros.
The measures are to be included in a revised budget bill which will have to be approved by parliament. They include eight billion euros for the healthcare system, including four billion to pay for face masks.
Healthcare staff in areas most affected by the Covid-19 epidemic are to receive a bonus of 1,500 euros as well as higher pay than usual for working extra hours. The package earmarks one billion euros for emergency aid to more than four million households, including special assistance of 150 euros per family receiving welfare benefits as well of 100 euros per child for the same families and those already on housing benefit.
Twenty-four billion euros in total for laid-off workers in the private sector, as well as seven billion for small businesses and independent workers, rounded out the measures affecting those out of work because of the lockdown.
The prime minister said the measures were based on a revised economic forecast for 2020 anticipating an 8 percent loss of gross domestic product (GDP), a deficit of 9 percent and debt of 115 percent of GDP.
.“This revised budget bill will also oblige us to revise our macro-economic forecast in a period of high uncertainty,” Philippe said after a cabinet meeting.
“Once the health crisis is under control, we must extend this plan with ambitious measures to ensure a strong and rapid renewal of the economy.”
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The primary domestic obstacles will probably emerge from President Macron’s recent loss of an absolute majority in the French parliament. A number of members of Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM) party defected to create a new socially and environmentally driven political movement known as EDS (Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity). The loss of a parliamentarian majority will almost certainly make any actions Mr. Macron more difficult to see through to fruition. International obstacles to Mr. Macron’s economic plans will probably present themselves in the form of opposition from other EU states. President Macron has spoken out about the potential pitfalls is European Union member states do not band together to combat the current crisis and support the economies of the Union’s most vulnerable member states. Opposition from countries such as Germany and the Netherlands may hinder not only Macron’s international plans but also his domestic policies.
What can people like you and I do to support France in its efforts to bolster it’s vulnerable economy? I believe one of the main things we can do is become educated on the issue so that we can begin to have meaningful conversations. A number of French media and news outlets carry reports in English so educating yourself about this current situation is achievable and imperative. I also recommend my readers to contact the State Department and the European Union and encourage them to support Mr. Macron’s efforts to save the French economy during this pandemic. While each of us individually may only be able to make a miniscule impact, it is when we come together as a whole that change can truly be accomplished.
Fibonacci Blue / Gravil, K. / Helber, S./ Robert E. Lee / Lassig, C./ Teuten, M./ Twitter & Friends of the Public Garden/ Twitter, & Żuchowski
George Floyd/ Black Lives Matter/ BLM/ Trayvon Martin/ Rayshard Brooks/ Racist Statues/ Robert E. Lee/ Christopher Columbus/ 54th Massachusetts Regiment/ Tadeusz Kościuszko
September 1 st, 2020