Activist: Removing statues a distraction from real issues

McKinley monument defaced in Buffalo; Frederick Douglass statue removed in Rochester

Tom Puckett
July 07, 2020 - 4:00 am
Site of Statue

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN)  Around the country, statues of Confederate leaders as well as explorer Christopher Columbus have been coming down. In Buffalo, the McKinley Monument has been defaced. But one activist says racial justice is not about removing statues.

"It's a distraction from the main issue right now," says Myles Carter of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens. "We need police brutality to be addressed, we need criminal justice reform, we need communities to properly serve the people." 

Carter says comparing Frederick Douglass, whose statue was removed in Rochester, to William McKinley, is like comparing apples to oranges. "Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, whose letters touched the hearts of millions of people. McKinley played a role in the history of the United States, but at the end of the day, neither should be the foucs of what's going on." Carter says he has issues with the way history is taught in schools, but that will dealt with at another time. "The main issue we need to focus on is what's plaguing and killing yound Black and Brown people across the country." 

He adds a need for a police oversight committee which has the power to fire officers who abuse their power.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan says he's stunned by how many statues there are of Confederate leaders around the country. "The largest loss of American life in any war is the Civil War, and the thought we would have statues of Confederate generals who killed Union soldiers boggles my mind," says Ryan. He says WNY is making progress. "We changed Squaw Island's name to Unity Island because we realized the word Squaw is an insult, so I was proud of Buffalo for doing that, but we have to look at heroes who deserve to be in statue form more closely," adds Ryan.

Ryan says any statue that goes up should stand there for a generation. "Why do we have to honor with a statue someone in Buffalo thought was a good idea? Why can't each generation memorialize its own heroes? I never thought that once a statue goes up, it should stay up forever," believes Ryan. "But because a bunch of people who liked Teddy Roosevelt in a certain time of history pooled together money to build a statue, it doesn't mean those people who have been dead for two generations, shouldn't have to dictate who we honor."

Ryan says statues need to be contextualized. "Statue of Columbus at the very least, should have a nice plaque describing who he was, his impact on the western world, but also his actions as a person," cites Ryan.

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