每日英語跟讀 Ep.906: Reconsidering the past, one statue at a time
The boiling anger that exploded in the days after George Floyd gasped his final breaths is now fueling a national movement to topple perceived symbols of racism and oppression in the United States, as protests over police brutality against African Americans expand to include demands for a more honest accounting of all American history.
In Portland, Oregon, demonstrators protesting against police killings turned their ire to Thomas Jefferson, toppling a statue of the Founding Father who also enslaved more than 600 people.
In Richmond, Virginia, a statue of Italian navigator and colonizer Christopher Columbus was spray-painted, set on fire and thrown into a lake.
And in Albuquerque, New Mexico, tensions over a statue of Juan de Oñate, a 16th-century colonial governor exiled from New Mexico over cruel treatment of Native Americans, erupted in street skirmishes and a blast of gunfire before the monument was removed.
Across the country, monuments criticized as symbols of historical oppression have been defaced and brought down at warp speed in recent days. The movement initially set its sights on Confederate symbols and examples of racism against African Americans but has since exploded into a broader cultural moment, forcing a reckoning over such issues as European colonization and the oppression of Native Americans.
In New Mexico, it has surfaced generations-old tensions among indigenous, Hispanic and Anglo residents and brought 400 years of turbulent history bubbling to the surface.
“We’re at this inflection point,” said Keegan King, a member of Acoma Pueblo, which endured a massacre of 800 or more people directed by Oñate, the brutal Spanish conquistador. The Black Lives Matter movement, he said, had encouraged people to examine the history around them, and not all of it was merely written in books.
“These pieces of systemic racism took the form of monuments and statues and parks,” King said.
The debate over how to represent the uncomfortable parts of American history has been going on for decades, but the traction for knocking down monuments seen in recent days raises new questions about whether it will result in a fundamental shift in how history is taught to new generations.
“It is a turning point insofar as there are a lot of people now who are invested in telling the story that historians have been laying down for decades,” said Julian Maxwell Hayter, a historian and associate professor at the University of Richmond.
He said that statues removed from parks and street corners could be teaching points if they are placed in museums, side-by-side with documents and first-person accounts from the era.