Things That Matter

Here’s Everything You Should Know About The Problematic And Racist Statues Being Torn Down Across The Country

So many of the headlines about the recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been about “senseless” property destruction. But several of the damaged sites have a perfectly sensible and very visceral connection to the protester’s chief issue: anti-Black racism.

Protests have burned down buildings and toppled statutes that have stood for years as blatant reminders of the country’s history of chattel slavery, racial injustice, and the war that was fought to uphold it.

“In many cases, preserving history was not the true goal of these displays,” former Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen said of the center’s 2016 report that found at least 1,500 US government-backed tributes to the Confederacy

“Rather, many of them were part of an effort to glorify a cause that was manifestly unjust — a cause that has been whitewashed by revisionist propaganda that began almost as soon as the Civil War ended. Other displays were intended as acts of defiance by white supremacists opposed to equality for African Americans during the civil rights movement.”

So how do you remove a racist monument? This week, the world is witnessing all the satisfyingly destructive ways

All around the country, protesters are removing statutes – but who were these historical figures?

Protesters in Richmond, Virginia, toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis. Earlier in the week, they dragged one of Christopher Columbus into a pond. A bronze monument of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England, met a watery demise (it’s since been fished out). An Egyptologist shared step-by-step instructions for how one might pull down an obelisk with ropes and brute force. In Boston, a statue of Columbus was beheaded.

The viral removals of monuments symbolizing racial terror are a push back on a culture that values violence and embeds false narratives about history into its landscapes – especially when it comes to America’s history as a slave-owning nation.

But who or what were these statutes memorializing and why do protesters want them taken down? Below we’ll detail some of the more common statues that are being torn down across the U.S.

Juan de Oñate

Credit: Susan Montoya Bryan / Getty Images

A conquistador and the first Spanish governor of New Mexico, Oñate sought to colonize the Acoma Pueblo, and when spiritual leader Zutacapan learned of the plans, a battle ensued, killing a dozen of Oñate’s men, including his nephew.

Oñate responded by exacting a massacre, leaving 800 dead, 300 of them women and children. Twenty-four men older than 25 had their right feet chopped off, and were enslaved for 20 years, along with many other Acoma, some as young as 12.

Jefferson Davis

In Richmond, Virginia and Minneapolis, MN, statues honoring the Confederate leader, Jefferson Davis, have finally been brought down. Many know about Davis’ history as president of the Confederacy: he lead a rebellion against his own country, owned hundreds of slaves, and fought to preserve his right to do so. He’s long been a target of protesters who have worked in city after city to have monuments built to this man taken down.

Junipero Serra

Credit: David Shmalz / Getty Images

Serra was active in the Spanish Inquisition and later led the first team of Spanish missionaries to California in 1769, which contributed to the killing and enslavement of thousands of native people and stripped many more of their cultural identity.

Part of dealing with current issues of systemic racism, many advocates have said, must include confronting the country’s colonial legacy of slavery and genocide. And it begins with symbols.

Symbols of Spanish colonialism can be found throughout California, largest among them the state’s 21 missions and the many statues dedicated to those who founded them.

Ulysses Grant

Credit: Michell Eberhart / Public Domain / Army.Gov

As president, Grant broke the KKK and fought for Black voting rights with a tenacity few other presidents have rivaled. 

But Grant’s legacy also has less admirable aspects. Grant’s wife had legal ownership of several Black people when he married her, and he himself kept a person in slavery for a year before freeing him at the start of the Civil War.

As president, Grant’s policy towards Native American people could easily be described as cultural genocide. He instigated an illegal and bloody war against the Lakota people of the Black Hills, and used federal force to push Native people onto reservations and to slaughter the buffalo they relied on for food. “American Indians experienced some of the worst massacres and grossest injustices in history while Ulysses S Grant was in office,” Alysa Landry writes at Indian Country Today

Francis Scott Key

Credit: Jose Barrios / Getty Images

Francis Scott Key, the author of America’s national anthem, not only personally enslaved people but also tried to silence the free speech of abolitionists, using his position as district attorney for Washington DC in the 1830s to launch high-profile cases attacking the abolitionist movement.

In San Francisco, protesters dragged the Key statue through the grass and were going to dump it in a nearby fountain, until they were told the fountain was a memorial to the Aids epidemic and stopped, a witness tweeted.

Theodore Roosevelt

Credit: Scott Heins / Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt is often looked upon fondly by many Americans. He advocated for the preservation of America’s national parks and worked hard to ensure economic prosperity. But to others, the former President symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.

So, in New York, the American Museum of Natural History will remove a prominent statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance.

“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,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

Robert Byrd

Credit: White House.gov

Robert Byrd was the longest serving U.S. Senator. But before he kicked off his long political career, he wrote a letter decrying then-President Truman’s efforts to integrate the military. He’d rather see his country crumble, he wrote, than fight “with a negro by my side.”

Perhaps this isn’t surprising from a onetime exalted cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan. Even after he supposedly renounced the Klan, he filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was the only senator who voted against the confirmations of the country’s two black Supreme Court justices, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas.

In his later years, he referred to same-sex marriage as “aberrant behavior” and told an interviewer in 2001, “There are white n***ers. I’ve seen a lot of white n***ers in my time.”

Christoper Columbus

Ok, sure, we all know who Christoper Columbus is and the horrific acts that he committed against Indigenous Americans. But to many, he is still the founder of the “New World” and if often praised for the “discovery” of the Americas. His expeditions are all too often seen as a great triumph as they brought great wealth and riches to Spain and other European countries – through exploiting Indigenous people.

Thankfully, more recent histories of the adventurer have focused on the slave trade in the Americas and the imported European diseases which wiped out Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean region and American continents.

Historians have credited Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas as the beginning of the slaughter of 3 million people – and his statue in North End Park in Boston, US, was decapitated on June 10.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Here’s How You Can Help Daunte Wright’s Family After He Was Killed By Police

Things That Matter

Here’s How You Can Help Daunte Wright’s Family After He Was Killed By Police

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Police have taken another Black man’s life, this time it’s 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Protests have broken out in cities across the country as the nation reacts to the killing of yet another young Black man.

But as the nation reacts to the murder, Wright’s family – his mother and child – need all the support they can get right now and thankfully there are many ways that we can all be better allies while helping support the family that Wright leaves behind.

Daunte Wright is the third high-profile police murder in Minneapolis.

Daunte Wright was driving to his older brother’s house with his girlfriend on Sunday afternoon, when police pulled him over for expired tags. Police said they found an existing warrant for Wright’s arrest and attempted to handcuff him.

Bodycam footage revealed Officer Kim Potter shot Wright when she claimed to be reaching for her taser. He died on the scene, just 10 miles from where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.

According to CNN, Daunte’s death is at least the third high-profile death of a Black man at the hands of police in Minnesota in the last five years. And Daunte Wright’s death comes less than a year after the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the world.

Daunte Wright leaves behind a family still struggling with such an immense loss.

Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, spoke out about the fear he experienced before his death. Daunte called her after the police pulled him over, at the suggestion of his older brother. “I know my son was scared. He’s afraid of the police, and I just seen and heard the fear in his voice. But I don’t know why, and it should have never escalated the way it did,” Katie told Good Morning America on April 13.

According to Katie, Daunte believed he was getting pulled over for his hanging air fresheners, then she heard “scuffling” and an officer told him to hang up the phone. “I tried to call back three, four times and the girl that was with him answered the phone and she said that they shot him and he was lying in the driver’s seat unresponsive.”

If you’d like to help support Daunte’s family and demand justice, below are a few resources and action items:

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com