By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Everyone is talking about statues again, and not just Confederate ones.
Now the Theodore Roosevelt statue will be removed from the Museum of Natural History:
The bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt, on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, which has presided over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940, is coming down.
The decision, proposed by the museum and agreed to by New York City, which owns the building and property, came after years of objections from activists and at a time when the killing of George Floyd has initiated an urgent nationwide conversation about racism.
For many, the equestrian statue at the museum’s Central Park West entrance has come to symbolize a painful legacy of colonial expansion and racial discrimination.
This is becoming epidemic.
They aren’t stopping at just monuments. At LSU in Baton Rouge, the Middleton Library is being renamed, and Troy Middleton’s name removed from the exterior of the building after a dig through archives determined Middleton held segregationist views in the 1950s.
Lee High School is Baton Rouge is going to be renamed. The school board member who opposed the motion is being targeted as a racist.
Activist Gary Chambers is also calling for street names with Confederate names to be changed:
Chambers, who is publisher of The Rouge Collection, also repeated his call that streets near Lee High, several of them named after Confederate generals, be renamed. “There’s even a street named Whitehaven,” he said.
One of the groups behind the removal of the Confederate monuments in New Orleans, Take ‘Em Down NOLA, has a list of sites they want renamed which they published in 2017. Their website now also calls for abolishing the police:
In this moment of global reconciliation with age old truths around systemic racism, Take Em Down NOLA demands that the city government finally begin the real work of reckoning with the WHOLE truth of white supremacy in New Orleans. They can start with the immediate removal of ALL symbols to white supremacy, including those that represent figures both before and after the Civil War. And they can move further by taking steps towards the abolition of the NOPD by DEFUNDING them (as they currently expropriate some two-thirds of taxpayers’ money) and PROACTIVELY reallocating those funds to children and families and the development of jobs that pay a LIVING wage. Minimum wage has never been sufficient, and it certainly isn’t now.
There is apparently no compromise and no room for discussion with radical extreme points of view – from either direction.
In Shreveport this past weekend, we have seen one demonstration after another; they have been peaceful, but have not been without conflict. Shreveport’s Confederate monument is still standing in front of the courthouse; the monument stands within a fence on a tiny parcel of land owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy – although this is still in litigation. During the protest this weekend, one of the participants climbed over the iron fence with a sledgehammer and posed for photos with the caption “Move it or Lose It!”
No harm was actually done, but the threat was made, and the person was trespassing on private property. Whether that land is actually owned by the UDC or not, the monument certainly is, and so: trespassing.
The Dallas, Texas Confederate monument is being dismantled as I type this.
At any rate, there is no end to this, and when all the monuments are gone, when all the school names and street names have been changed, when every single symbol is erased, will people then stop having racial bias? Will that do it?
When does it end? What does it take?
I don’t think anyone has the answer to that.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.