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Should what goes up come down?



Are we erasing history? The debate on removing historical statues around the US

historical statues, removal, history, activists

Every day it seems, we are hearing about another statue somewhere in the country that is being protested because of their being regarded as symbols of slavery and racism. The iconic statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of The American Museum of Natural History is at risk of being taken down because of its depiction of the future president mounted on a horse with two figures, a Black man and a Native American, on foot, standing alongside. Even Mayor DeBlasio says, “The city supports the decision and (it’s) the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

Known as the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the sculpture in question has been “contested by activists for almost 50 years,” say representatives of the AMNH. And, in a recent story on SmithsonianMag.com, the statue was meant to celebrate Roosevelt’s interest in natural history and friendliness to all races, but that was not the case. Roosevelt, however, supported the belief of white superiority and frequently denigrated African Americans.

Statues from Christopher Columbus to the Founding Fathers and Robert E. Lee are being removed or are under threat of vandalism.  In a conversation between the Harvard Gazette and Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian of U.S. slavery, legal scholar, and member of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, she was believed that taking these statues down is an attempt to cover up or erase history. Her response?  She said that we will still know who these figures are. “No. I don’t,” she said, “History will still be taught. We will know who Robert E. Lee was. Who Jefferson Davis was. Who Frederick Douglass was. Who Abraham Lincoln was. There are far more dangerous threats to history. Defunding the humanities, cutting history classes and departments. Those are the real threats to history.”

Parents have an opportunity to discuss history and racism with their children. UNICEF’s parenting blog offers these ways for parents to celebrate diversity at home:

1. Find ways to introduce your child to diverse cultures and people from different races and ethnicities. Such positive interactions with other racial and social groups early on helps decrease prejudice and encourages more cross-group friendships. 

2. You can also bring the outside world into your home. Explore food from other cultures, read their stories and watch their films. 

3. Be conscious of racial bias in books and films and seek out ones that portray people from different racial and ethnic groups in a positive light.

4. Explore the past together to better understand the present. Historical events like the end of apartheid in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States can show how people have successfully come together for equality and justice. These shared experiences can further help your child build trust and openness to different perspectives.




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