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Washington mayor moves to quell anger over statue proposals

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Sep 03, 2020 - 01:53 AM

WASHINGTON — The mayor of US capital Washington on Wednesday asked a committee studying the fate of its monuments to figures linked to slavery and racism to focus on “contextualizing, not removing” federal memorials, after the White House slammed its recommendations as “ludicrous.”

The “DC Faces” group had recommended that seven monuments, including the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and a statue of Christopher Columbus, should be “removed, renamed or contextualized.”

It also wants a change in the names of some 50 city schools and parks named after controversial historical figures who “encouraged the oppression of African Americans and other communities of color or contributed to our long history of systemic racism.”

The committee was established during a nationwide debate over what to do with controversial Confederacy statues and monuments to colonialism.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, while Columbus is seen by many as a symbol of Europeans’ violent colonization of the New World.

But the page in the report dealing with these monuments, which are situated on federal land, was removed from the working group’s report on Wednesday.

Bowser, who is African American, “has asked the DC Faces Working Group to clarify and refine their recommendations to focus on local DC, so no one attempts to confuse the Working Group’s focus on contextualizing, not removing, important monuments and memorials in DC,” a spokeswoman said.

The White House late Tuesday slammed what it called “ludicrous recommendations,” accusing the Democratic mayor of “repeating the same left-wing narrative used to incite dangerous riots: demolishing our history and destroying our great heritage.”

In its report, the working group said its task was to disqualify any figure whose history revealed “participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities.”

David Farber, a historian at the University of Kansas, said that “few well known historical figures, from our contemporary vantage point, were without deep faults.”

“But some, and I would include Jefferson, (Benjamin)Franklin and Washington, worked toward a better society–although they also often accepted and acted upon the ugly conventions of their times,” he told AFP.

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