Tag Archives: New York City

Taking Down a Racist Sculpture in the Center of Manhattan

statue of Roosevelt on horse, flanked by a Black man and a Native man on foot

Laurie and Debbie say:

For many decades, both of us have hated the statue on the east side of the Museum of Natural History (pictured above). President Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by two subservient men of color: the very picture of white supremacy in bronze.

In 2017, we put up a guest blog from Laurie’s brother Mike, about his engagement in activism to get it taken down:

To call this status racist, jingoistic and extremely offensive is to understate the case. The City of New York and the Museum of Natural History are reminding every visitor every day that they believe in white supremacy, that white privileged people like Roosevelt are appropriate leaders of “inferior” races. The statue says clearly that they are inferior: he’s dressed and they’re half-naked; he’s on a horse and they’re on foot. Thank God that in 2017 we still have powerful White men to show you Black people and Native Americans the way. …

This week, New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the statue is finally coming down. Nora McGreevy writes about this for Smithsonian Magazine:

… on Sunday, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests against racism, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that it would at last come down.

The removal came at the request of the museum, which also released a statement asking for the statue’s removal, reports Robin Pogrebin for the New York Times. It comes amid a nationwide push to remove public works honoring Confederate leaders, including incidents of some protesters taking matters into their own hands by vandalizing or pulling down memorials themselves.

It is shameful that the statue was ever erected, and more shameful still that it is standing in 2020. And yet, it will be an unalloyed pleasure to walk past that side of the museum and not be confronted with such a hateful image.

Symbolic victories can be satisfying.





This Is What Resistance Looks Like


Debbie says:

NYC subway riders erasing swastika graffiti

One of my immediate reactions to Trump’s election was to think about acts of resistance and what they will look like. We can count on the media to make everything look as divisive, nasty, and disorganized as possible, because “if it bleeds, it leads.” We have probably literally millions of people who are new to political engagement, new to activism, new to protest. We certainly have millions of people who feel frozen and don’t know what to do.

Because we are not born knowing anything, there’s no shame in not knowing what resistance looks like. But we tend to feel shame when we are frozen, feel that we are somehow supposed to know (just like we’re supposed to know how to behave in sexual situations, how to parent, how to manage a bank account, how to cook, even if no one has ever taught us).

So, looking at what people have actually done is incredibly helpful. Gregory Locke found himself on a New York City subway train where all of the maps and advertisements had been covered in hateful anti-Semitic graffiti.

One guy got up and said, “Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.” He found some tissues and got to work.

I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purel. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.

For me this story has three messages. First, the haters are out there, and they have no shame about spreading their message, usually anonymously, usually in some situation where they can’t face repercussions.

Second, our numbers are much larger than theirs. If we know what to do as a community, we will largely do it.

Third, nothing happens until someone unfreezes, makes a suggestion, takes an action. That whole car could have been frozen and the graffiti could still be there.

Practice makes perfect. If you have the opportunity, take a stab at being that person.  One group that will help you learn how is Hollaback! and there are many others.

If you hear about acts of resistance like this one, or bigger, or smaller, share them.

Thanks to danceswchopstck for the pointer.