“Objects of Popular Resentment”: Hundreds of Professors Seek Removal Of Statues To Christopher Columbus and Teddy Roosevelt

250px-Theodore_Roosevelt_circa_1902220px-Christopher_ColumbusI have been writing and speaking about the movement to remove statues that range from confederate leaders to Columbus to Supreme Court justices to Founders (here  and here and here and here). I specifically  wrote about the call for the removal of monuments to George Washington and others as the list lengthens of figures to be cleansed from public historical displays.  In a particularly concerning development, hundreds of professors have now joined this movement in signing a letter calling for New York City to remove monuments honoring Theodore Roosevelt and Christopher Columbus.  The open letter to New York’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers declares such historical figures as representing “white supremacy” and “objects of popular resentment.”  The letter is an embarrassment for higher education as these academics adopt over-simplified and ahistorical approaches to this controversy.

The scholars state:

As scholars of American art, cultural history and social analysis, we are writing to urge that the Commission recommend the removal of several monuments from public view in New York City. They have long been highlighted as objects of popular resentment among communities of color and anti-racist scholars, artists, and movements. It is thus no surprise that these monuments have risen to the top of the list of the “symbols of hate,” to quote Mayor de Blasio, singled out during the Commission’s recent public hearings. For too long, they have generated harm and offense as expressions of white supremacy. These monuments are an affront in a city whose elected officials preach tolerance and equity.

It is important to note that they are speaking of Teddy Roosevelt and Columbus.  The attack on Roosevelt is illustrative of the simplistic treatment given the history of the period:

As an imperialist, and frank advocate of eugenics, Roosevelt’s views on racial hierarchy are well-known to historians. The Museum (center of the American eugenics movement in the early years of the twentieth century) now pays tribute to his conservationist efforts, without acknowledging the link to those racialist beliefs. The dedication of the Museum’s memorial in 1936 and of the adjoining equestrian monument in 1939 was celebrated by its officials as a consummation of the theories of Henry Fairfield Osborn, who had presided over the institution’s early growth at the same time as he championed eugenics within and without.

Roosevelt was indeed expansionist in his policies and those policies are troubling in many respects. However, he was also a great leader in many other respects, including his leading role in laying the foundations for American conservationism.

I may be naive in believing that academics are joined by a deep intellectual commitment to history and objectivity. However, to see professors joining this blind rage against historical figures is truly depressing.  The letter simply sweeps too broadly in seeking the removal of such memorials.

What do you think?

61 thoughts on ““Objects of Popular Resentment”: Hundreds of Professors Seek Removal Of Statues To Christopher Columbus and Teddy Roosevelt

  1. It’s finally happened. The college of aThe Holy Cross in Worcester Mass. is considering changing their mascot. The Crusader. I was waiting for this one to happen.

  2. Just think, if Columbus never discovered America, the Aztecs could still be slaughtering men, women, and children today in gruesome human sacrifice. There are pillars made of an estimated hundreds of thousands of human skulls, and that’s just the ones that have been found. The numbers of killings are unfathomable.

    Without Columbus, slavery could still continue. Slavery was practiced all across the globe, including among Native Americans. Westernized culture eventually halted slavery and human sacrifice in the US. They could still use scalps as currency. There would still be genocides and battles over territory. When the herds moved on, the strongest nomadic tribes conquered, enslaved, or completely wiped out weaker tribes. No one genteelly starved when game failed because it would be rude to take neighboring lands. And I do not believe anyone would choose to live in harsh desert conditions with lower life expectancy when there were lush resources to be had elsewhere. Less successful tribes in warfare were wiped out or pushed out to land with worse resources.

    Competition over resources happens in the rest of the animal kingdom, too.

    I do not believe in anachronistically judging the past by today. Extremist Liberals pillory Columbus while conveniently ignoring the existence of expansion, genocide, slavery, women treated as chattel, torture, and everything else that went on around the globe in antiquity. Native Americans were not evil for those practices, either. It was a long time ago when times were different, and there is a lot of love and preserve about the culture of many tribes. But let’s not claim that any tribe crossed the Bering Land Bridge, went straight to ancestral homelands, and never changed its boundaries, quarreled, stole horses or women from their neighbors, tortured anyone, battled anyone, wiped anyone out and basically just sat around the campfire all day. You will note that there is no intact Clovis Indian tribe. The survivors of that cooling extinction now have their DNA mixed with modern Native Americans, who apparently did not completely leave their lands alone and intact. They mixed with them, and mixing is a euphemism. Oh, and the Clovis may not have been environmentalists, as they theoretically helped hunt the Mammoth and other megafauna to extinction.

    Without Columbus, we would not have the most robust individual freedom in the globe. We do not know how Native American cultures would have evolved without Western clashes. Yes, it is tragic when any way of life goes away. It was tragic when tribes wiped each other out. It was tragic when Europeans brought diseases for which the native population had no immunity. History is littered with light and darkness. But selective memory or preferential bias is no answer. What would they have us do? Give the entire country back to Native Americans, and then cull from them anyone without Clovis DNA, and then try to put back ancestral homelands and give them back to any tribes that were displaced by other tribes? How in God’s name do we apply that same level of “fairness” to anyone with Aztec DNA? What kind of reparations do you give for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people, at the bare minimum? What about the Aztec genocides perpetrated against weaker tribes? Eons of slavery, torture, and human sacrifice? If we throw Columbus on the fire, then the Aztec culture goes, too. Sorry, La Raza, your ancestors were some of the worst imperialist slavers of all, if we are going to anachronistically apply today’s standards to yesterday. Personally, I think that’s stupid, but the Left does keep insisting it’s the most fair and caring way to go.

    All of the stronger tribes who killed the weaker ones, enslaved them, or forced them to live in privation in the desert owe reparations. The most peaceful culture I know of were the Nez Perce. Everyone else can pay reparations. And above all, tribes were the most peaceful when there were the most abundant resources. Times of need always drove behavior.

    Oh, and while the sons are paying for the sins of the fathers, let’s make the Portuguese and Dutch pay for being prolific slavers. Let’s identify the African tribes who were the most notorious for selling their rivals into slavery, and demand reparations. Anyone who has immigrated to the US from any African nation, after emancipation, owes reparation, because someone, somewhere in their ancestral tree warred with neighboring tribes using slavery as a weapon.

    • Honestly, the level of self hatred for some Americans is staggering. They show very little knowledge of human history, or even the history of pre-Columbian America, let alone global history of that era. The Maori of New Zealand were infamous cannibals, for example. Their tongue movements in their dances are meant to strike terror, as they are reminders that they eat people. Where are they on the moral relevance scale for Europeans of the same time period?

      Maybe, life in general was extremely unfair, especially to women, hundreds of years ago, no matter where you lived.

      I’m quite happy to live today in the US with Westernized culture and freedom. My ancestresses suffered and struggled, but now I have suffrage today. People did not have individual rights, and therefore enslaved and were barbaric to each other. Eventually, we enacted robust individual rights to everyone. It took humanity a very long time to get it right. It was the journey that got us here.

      • “Eventually, we enacted robust individual rights to everyone. It took humanity a very long time to get it right. It was the journey that got us here.”

        Ah, to be so naive.

      • If we were to empty the United States of anyone who is not Native American out of some sense of reparations, or to right the “wrong” of Columbus, then where would everyone go? The Picts fought the Romans and the Angles in Scotland, but were overwhelmed by the Gaels. So, can anyone go to Scotland who is not purely Pict? And whom, if anyone, did they displace? The Romans conquered everyone and made citizens out of them, and they most definitely did not behave according to modern standards. Can anyone return to previously-held Roman territory? Don’t get me started on the Vikings. How do we untangle who fought with whom and snatched what land? It goes to the dawn of our time, and absolutely no one, from Africa to New Zealand, sat on their hands and knitted the entire time.

        You cannot preferentially hold one group accountable for history’s dark times, i.e. white Americans, and fail to hold everyone equally responsible. Anyone who sold an enemy into eternal slavery, enslaved the Irish, took scalps, engaged in human sacrifice…Either we are all held responsible for the sins of our grandparents X 10, or no one is. The idea that the most currently successful group should be preferentially held responsible is pure rubbish. The Aztecs terrorized for far longer than the US has even existed. It would be absurd to hold anyone with Aztec blood accountable for those actions, and it’s absurd to try to re-write history and claim Columbus was more reprehensible than any other man of antiquity would be according to today’s standards.

        We do not study and revere the teachings of Plato, Socrates, Aesop, or any early explorer cartographer because they had today’s values. That would be impossible. No one did. And so it is anachronistic to penalize them for behaving in a normal fashion for the times. That’s like claiming all modern Apaches should be held in disgust because their ancestors scalped men, women, and children of enemy tribes as well as settlers. Absolutely no one would pass scrutiny.

        What is fair is that everyone have equally robust, Constitutionally protected individual rights, and live under a fair and representative rule of law. We would not have enjoyed that under any other culture of antiquity, which is what makes the US and the rest of the West so special. Stop snarling over humankind fighting over land throughout history, from here to Europe, Asia, and the African continent. It happened. It’s sad. Live today.

        • What is fair is that everyone have equally robust, Constitutionally protected individual rights, and live under a fair and representative rule of law.

          Absolutely well said!

    • In the slavery “chain” from Africa, the first link was of course the black Africans who roped together their slower and weaker neighbors to sell/trade to European wholesalers. Yet the descendants of those original slavers are apparently due reparations the same as other blacks? Really?

      And similarly, black children of multi-millionaires deserve preference over non-protected class Americans for college entrance, job entrance, and promotions. One particular protected class, Asian Americans, require a full two grade points higher for equal access to some colleges v. every other protected class. Is it really “fair” to punish high-achievers based on their DNA, over which they have zero control?

      I’d sooner toss out every so-called “protection” for every one every where than the modern spoils system currently running this asylum. If Darwinism is correct, we have certainly sowed the seeds of self-destruction, and this article is good proof.

      Blacks and Hispanics on campus feel “oppressed” because we intentionally placed them among fellow students with 2 or 3 GPA higher, while constantly telling those same failures they “can achieve anything!” Sure, flunk out of high school, and become a surgeon, and astronaut, or both!

  3. Too bad we can’t knock down statues of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch’s, and Adelson who aren’t dead enough to be memorialized nor prevented from plotting world oligarchy.

  4. Such great role models. /s

    I don’t know how we backpeddle out of this mess anymore. A knife would break on the hubris, cowardice, and ignorance on display at these colleges. We are headed for a fall in a couple of decades if we don’t get our collective act together, that much I know.

  5. As an imperialist, and frank advocate of eugenics, Roosevelt’s views on racial hierarchy are well-known to historians.

    If they are so opposed to recognizing leaders in eugenics, Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood chop shops are still at work today.

  6. What do people as a culture want to honor for posterity? Military violence? Killing? Ethnic-cleansing? Land theft? If we are going to have statues, they should represent generosity, kindness, nurturing, and environmental sustainability. Those are the values we want to share with posterity.

    • And yet we can’t have a cross, much less a statue of Jesus. So who did you have in mind? (Other than Obama, of course.)

        • “You can have all the crosses and statues of Jesus that you want, just so long as they are not on public property.”

          **************************************

          Somebody really ought to tell that to the SCOTUS:

          “The 18 lawgivers looking down on the justices are divided into two friezes of ivory-colored, Spanish marble. On the south wall, to the right of incoming visitors, are figures from the pre-Christian era — Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius and Octavian (Caesar Augustus). On the north wall to the left are lawmakers of the Christian era — Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshall, William Blackstone, Hugo Grotius, Louis IX, King John, Charlemagne, Muhammad and Justinian.”

          • I was surprised and pleased that SCOTUS stood up to Muslim groups that demanded the image of Muhammed be sandblasted off. I hope no terrorists target the building. Not to be Captain Obvious, but it’s difficult to reason with extremists.

            The sculptures are another example of honoring a particular aspect of figures from antiquity. In this case, it was their historical importance as lawmakers. Mixing in the secular with religious figures focused on laws in general, although the Ten Commandments are honored as being the antecedents for some of our laws.

    • “What do people as a culture want to honor for posterity? Military violence? Killing? Ethnic-cleansing? Land theft? If we are going to have statues, they should represent generosity, kindness, nurturing, and environmental sustainability. Those are the values we want to share with posterity.”

      You shouldn’t partake in those chemicals before posting. Monuments serve as educational points of discussion. Your self-generated ideals, most likely woefully short in any possible validity they may currently have, will likely not reflect those in the future.

      But then again, since the most progressive among us already know all there is to know—then of course we do not need silly reminders from an errant human past.

    • Crispy:

      I’m always struck by the country-loathing of the beneficiaries of “military violence” like you. You are a debtor to every US service person who died in combat or as a result of it covering your a$$ and allowing you to spew your ingratitude. I think it has something to do with insecurity over stronger men providing the protection for you that you know you can’t, but that’s amateur psychiatry.

      What isn’t amateurish is your pro-level hatred for everything involving traditional American values, which of course aren’t ethnic cleansing or land theft — generalizations which are belied by American self-less foreign aid and military protection through the world. I never see any cry out to the compassionate, environmentally conscious Swiss when the bullets start to fly or the car bomb goes off in some third-world market place.

      You admire the virtues of the weak which depend solely on the protection of the strong for survival and that’s fine. But you don’t have to denigrate the strong in doing so.

      • What would our Western Civilization family tree look like if everyone was given an ax to remove what they considered offensive from our history? At best we’d be left with a stump. If we eliminate those ancients and enlightenment era philosophers that inspired the Declaration of Independence, because they were from an era in human history that did not measure up to today’s standards, then that stump would be ripped out, roots and all.

          • mespo,
            I came across an interesting article today that might lead to an understanding of why so many people will complain about mankind’s abuses of others throughout history, largely sanctioned by whatever government existed at the time; and then support empowering our government to abuse the rights of our citizens today. It’s irrational. It defies logic and reason.

            But given the above definition of “critical,” is it possible that the average parent has been misled about the topic? Instead of teaching children to thoughtfully and logically evaluate objective facts, has instruction in critical thinking been teaching them to abandon objective truth and instead follow after activist ideas?

            In 2016, ACT discovered that first year college students overwhelmingly struggle in distinguishing between fact and opinion. This is disturbing news, but perhaps is less surprising if we consider that critical thinking has taught students to question long-established fact and truth.
            http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/historical-origins-critical-thinking-theory?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9697969&utm_content=newsletter(9697969)&utm_term=newsletter

    • Why do you get to decide what kind of statues the nation is allowed to have?

      After WWII, a huge percentage of the population had either died in war, injured, or survived. There was privation. The Jews had been darn near wiped out, and there was the shock of the concentration camps. People did without, and cried rivers of tears for all the dead.

      Afterward, there are statues memorializing the courage and sacrifice of the fallen, the heroes, and the survivors. There were memorials to the Jewish murdered. Statues of raising the flag and beating back one of the greatest modern day evils. Can you imagine what the US would be like today if Hitler had won? This was a triumph of good over evil.

      You may see those statues as war mongering, but others see them as a testament to survival and why people sacrificed their lives.

      There are statutes to the early thinkers of freedom, who obviously would not pass muster in today’s values, and yet for their own era they pushed the boundaries. Their work was the basis upon which later reasoning made even greater strides.

      Then there are the early paragons of learning, who are honored for their contributions to science, philosophy, writing…not for having 100% modern beliefs. A statue does not mean that all aspects of that person is agreeable today.

      Even one of my favorite heroines, Harriett Tubman, would have had beliefs about men and women and other topics that were formed in her time. She still deserves to have her statues and her honors, regardless of whether every single one of her beliefs would be considered modern. Does a statue honoring Native Americans honor their practice of slavery, especially sexual slavery? Of course not. That would be anachronistic. It simply honors an aspect of Native Americans, and their early place in this land.

  7. To the contrary, TR laid the foundation for American progressivism,not conservatism. TR was quite liberal for his day, notwithstanding his expansionist and even militarist views. TR was a trust buster who furthered the integration of the federal work force.

    How’s this for a symbol of white supremacy: indoor plumbing. Invented by a white man, right. So, if they are really serious about eliminating symbols of white supremacy, let these self-appointed “scholars” rip out their toilets and the next time they need to go to the bathroom head for some hole in the woods.

  8. The greatest threat to humanity is the rewriting of history. These statues represent history. The issue here is education. The difference is between a student growing up in a void vis a vis those who effected nations and a student growing up with a complete comprehension of the past, which is the only way to understand the present, and design the future. In order to understand one needs to be face to face with reality. Taking the statues away, banning the words, tarring with a broad brush, and slithering away from the truth is the perfect recipe for repeating the wrongs of the past.

    • So it was wrong to tear down the statues of Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Saddam Hussein. Millions of people appreciated the history represented by those statues. Also statues of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahlmer, and Dick Cheney should be erected so that people can appreciate the history they represent.

  9. These are no scholars. They have a cursory reading of history, at best. We are witnessing mental illness play out in the public square and it’s gruesome. It was fun watching the progressives set their hair on fire. It’s now pathetic. I’m not joking. To watch people abandon all notions of logic and critical thing is alarming. No good decision has ever been made because one feels “hurt”.

  10. I’m shocked. Teddy was the first Progressive President and was greener than Klein. What are they thinking.

    Columbus or Cristobal Colon or however it’s pronounced in Italian follwoed the Vikings,the Faroe Islanders, the Irish, and the Portuguese and engendered a three word sentence composed of three lies. He didn’t discover America, His name wasn’t Columbus, and it wasn’t america at that time. What he did was hire great ad and publicity agency and become Giovanni Come Lately.

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