Colonizers and Racists’ Statues Are Coming Down–Even Roosevelt’s

Black Lives Matter protests over the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd and the seemingly interminable list of other minorities whose lives police have taken aren’t merely about reforming policing policies.

They are also about dismantling institutionalized racism upon which our society was built.

Central to that racism are the monuments we have erected over the centuries to slave owners, military muckety mucks, politicians, and explorers.

Fortunately, many of those symbols of white privilege are finally coming down.

Crowds gathered in Charleston, SC last week to witness the removal of a statue of former Vice President John C. Calhoun, who once characterized slavery as a “positive good.”

Statues of Christopher Columbus are toppling all over the country.

Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, and even Great Britain are scenes in which monuments to confederates and colonizers have recently been knocked from their pedestals.

But there’s one interesting statue also slated for removal.

That’s the one of President Theodore Roosevelt atop a horse, flanked by a Native American and African American, located outside the main entrance to New York’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

AMNH president Ellen Sutter explained last week in a staff memo:

“Over the last few weeks, our Museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd. We also have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues and monuments as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism. As we strive to advance our institution’s, our City’s, and our country’s passionate quest for racial justice, we believe that removing the Statue [of Roosevelt] will be a symbol of progress and of our commitment to build and sustain an inclusive and equitable Museum community and broader society.”

In 2017, a commission New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio created to evaluate city statues deemed controversial determined the statue of Roosevelt should remain, but the museum had to provide more context about its origins and present historical significance.

It complied by creating an exhibit about the statue’s history, but now admits it is “abundantly clear” that approach was wrong, and requested the city’s permission to remove it.

Mayor de Blasio responded:

“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior. The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, added:

“The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”

Roosevelt’s statue, which many argue is racist, has been object of controversy for years.

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Ted Millar is a poet and teacher. His work has appeared in Words & Whispers, Fleas on the Dog, Better Than Starbucks, Straight Forward Poetry, Reflecting Pool: Poets and the Creative Process (Codhill Press, 2018), Crossways, Caesura, Circle Show, The Broke Bohemian, The Voices Project, Third Wednesday, Tiny Poetry: Macropoetics, Scintilla, GFT Press, Inklette, The Grief Diaries, Cactus Heart, Aji, Wordpool Press, The Artistic Muse, Chronogram, Brickplight and Inkwell. He also serves as an editor for Short Edition. In addition to writing poetry, he is also a frequent contributor to Liberal America, Liberal Nation Rising, and OpEd News, as well as hosting The Left Place podcast, available on Breaker, Google, Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, Apple podcasts, and Spotify.