No Statue Is Safe from Justice's Wrath

For too long, America has institutionalized its racism—in its museums, in its awards ceremonies, and in its statues. Now the people are fighting back.

Christopher Columbus should be scared.

This week a statue of Columbus in Boston was beheaded. Over 1000 protestors gathered in Boston to support Indigenous peoples, an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter protests that have sprung up after the death of George Floyd.

"We stand in solidarity with black and brown communities that are tired of being murdered by an out-of-control, militarized and violent police force," read a statement from the the Richmond Indigenous Society, which took part in the rally.

Columbus is also floating at the bottom of a lake in Richmond, Virginia.

This comes after a wave of protests that culminated in the removal of statues of some of America's most valorized founders—AKA the slave-owners, colonizers, and genocidal rapists who built America by oppressing others, and who are somehow still allowed to lurk in statue form across America.

Most of the Columbus statue protests have been spearheaded by Native American activists and Black Lives Matter activists, standing in solidarity together.

Since Christopher Columbus played a major role in the genocide of Indigenous Americans and the beginning of the American slave trade, it makes sense that the descendants of the people he hurt would be attacking tributes to him.

The destruction of Columbus statues follows the toppling of several other statues, including a number of Confederate statues in Richmond, Virginia, namely a vestige of Confederate President Jefferson Davies.

In downtown Miami, police arrested 7 protestors after they spray painted a statue of Columbus and explorer Juan Ponce De Leon.

In Sacramento, statue of John Sutter—a Swiss pioneer who enslaved thousands of Native Americans—was vandalized.

"I think we glorify folks for the contributions without knowing the history of what actually happened. Native people have been hunted for thousands of years, and we know what Sutter fort stands for," said Britta Guerrero, CEO of the Sacramento Native American Health Center. "Until the lion learns to write the story, we will glorify the hunter. This is the white-washed version of history so that one person or one community, one people, is the hero and usually the darker version is the villain. The indigenous people that were and still are very much here and thriving today - let's acknowledge those people who actually fight to protect their family, their culture, and their way of life."

At Texas A&M, a statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross was spray-painted with the words "BLM" and "ACAB" and was covered in red paint. The previous week, a petition to remove the statue received 20,000 signatures. Ross was a confederate general.

At the University of Mississippi, a Confederate monument was vandalized during a Black Lives Matter protest, emblazoned with the words "spiritual genocide" and red handprints.

The statue-toppling tradition has extended to England, where a statue of slaveholder Robert Milligan was removed from the Museum of London Docklands. A statue of Winston Churchill was also sprayed with graffiti in Parliament Square. In Bristol, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into a harbor.

Columbus Circle NYCWikipedia

People have been requesting the removal of statues of slaveowners and colonizers for years, in an ongoing process to remove symbols of America's racist past from its institutions. The fact that they still stand—and that so many people consider statues of villainous killers to be emblematic of American democracy—is proof that this past still very heavily influences this nation's present.

The practice of removing Columbus statues is not a new one. When the Duvalier regime was overthrown in Haiti in the 70s, protestors—many direct descendants of slaves—tossed a statue of Columbus into the sea.

Currently, attention has turned towards the statue of Columbus that currently stands at New York City's Columbus Circle. Governor Andrew Cuomo declined to call for the removal of the massive, grandiose structure, but Indigenous activists say it's long past time that it was removed.

"I think with everything that is going on now … I don't see why (the city) would have an argument against keeping the Christopher Columbus statue," Melissa Iakowi:he'ne' Oakes, director if the American Indian Community House, told ABC News.

Of course, some people are pushing against the statues' destruction. Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, an Italian-American Bostonian, called Columbus a "celebration of Italian heritage."

Gillian Mason, another Italian-American who lives in the area, replied, "The most shameful part of Italian American history is we've forgotten the fact that we were once victims of white supremacy and we started to side with the oppressor."

"In terms of the old guard who's going to come out and defend this, I would just say, think again," Mason added, according to MassLive. "It's time to get really clear about what our history actually is and to start doing some truth and reconciliation about the role we've played really as traitors to the multiracial working class in a lot of ways."

"I think it's a little tone-deaf to think that all the residents of this neighborhood who are Italian American are going to be proudly supporting Columbus," said Green, who launched the petition. "I think we know more now than we did when we were kids. There's more ways to celebrate being Italian Americans, ones that aren't so morally compromised."


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