These days everyone is talking about the Confederate statues and monuments coming down across America. We’ve also suggested some non-Confederate but still racist statues that should be considered for removal next.
Hopefully, this will result in a lot of prime statue real estate that we can then use to memorialize people who weren’t racist and didn’t actively fight for the oppression of others.
So, I’m curious: Who would you build a statue for? Who should we honor in place of the slavery enthusiasts and racists America loves to memorialize?
I have some suggestions, but I’m more interested in yours. Let’s talk about them in the comments.
Who better to replace one of the many Confederate statues than a woman known for literally taking down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house?
“You come against me with hatred, oppression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God,” she reportedly said while on top of the flagpole, being pursued by police. “This flag comes down today. “
Get this woman a statue.
Mankiller was the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation in modern times. There’s actually a statue in Oklahoma which honors the Cherokee people and Mankiller with images of turtles, a tree, and a butterfly, but she deserves a memorial dedicated to her.
Mankiller was one of the final candidates in the campaign to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with a prominent and influential woman.
From the Women on 20s campaign:
Mankiller tripled her tribe’s enrollment, doubled employment and built new housing, health centers and children’s programs in northeast Oklahoma. Under her leadership, infant mortality declined and educational achievement rose. In 1990, she signed an historic self-determination agreement in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs surrendered direct control over millions of dollars in federal funding to the tribe. Her leadership on social and financial issues made her tribe a national role model and she remained a strong voice worldwide for social justice, native people and women after she left office in 1995.
Fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed in 1991 by a storekeeper who thought she was trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. I wrote about her during the anniversary of the Los Angeles Uprising earlier this year:
Latasha Harlins is not a name we remember very well. There are very few published photos of her. But as Brenda Stevenson, an African-American studies professor at UCLA and author of the book The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender and the Origins of the LA Riots, explained to me, her name was prominent in LA’s black community during the uprising.
“Often times now the uprising is referred to as the ‘Rodney King riots,’ which completely wipes away not only Latasha Harlins but the structural problems that African Americans faced in Los Angeles,” Stevenson said.
The erasure of black women and girls from the narrative of racism and civil rights in America continues, as initiatives like the #SayHerName report highlight. That’s why, as the 25th anniversary of the LA Uprising approaches, it’s crucial to resurrect Latasha Harlins’s story.
Not only would a statue of Latasha Harlins serve as a memorial of a young girl whose life was far too short, it would also serve as a sobering reminder of the human consequences of not addressing racism and gun violence.
Technically, there’s already a statue of Dolores Huerta in Napa, but she’s with César E. Chávez as part of a memorial to the labor movement they supported together. She needs a statue of her own!
Huerta, along with Chavez, organized farm workers and launched what we now know as the United Farm Workers of America. Her organizing efforts got the unionized laborers disability insurance, the right to organize, and better working conditions through boycotts and grassroots organizing and advocacy. She also fought gender discrimination among farm workers.
And if that wasn’t enough, in the years since, Huerta has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and immigrants’ rights.
In fact, at 87 years old, she’s still at it.
Hawaii has already been working on getting a statue of Patsy Mink, a Japanese American who was the first woman of color elected to Congress. But I still think she’s worth nomination here because, while revered in the state she represented for 24 years in Congress, much of the mainland might not know who she is.
After running into discrimination time after time again while trying to pursue an education, Mink used her time in Congress to advocate for equality, including getting the Women’s Education Equity Act passed in 1974, which “provided $30 million a year in educational funds for programs to promote gender equity in schools, to increase educational and job opportunities for women, and to excise sexual stereotypes from textbooks and school curricula,” according to a House of Representatives page about her.
She also co-authored what we now know as Title IX, which “barred sexual discrimination in institutions receiving federal funds and opened up opportunities for women in athletics.”
Of course, this list can’t and won’t be comprehensive. Other folks who I think are more than deserving of a physical marker of their role in our historical memory include:
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Mecheand and Ricky Best (the two men stabbed and killed for protecting two Muslim women on a Portland train earlier this year) and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who was seriously injured trying to defend the women; Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, and the other enslaved black women whom “father of modern gynecology” Dr. James Marion Sims—who, regretfully, is memorialized in Central Park—operated on without anesthesia; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, the first known LGBTQ astronaut, and a woman who was already suggested to replace Junipero Serra in the U.S. Capitol; Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman who worked extensively on issues related to accessing education...I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could too.
Who do you want to honor? Let’s talk about it.