Last summer’s wave of statue removals across America may have felt transformative, but it didn’t significantly alter America’s statuary landscape: The almost 50,000 monuments that remain in place around the nation overwhelmingly depict white males — including, across the South, avowed enemies of the United States — while largely ignoring the contributions of Black Americans, women and others.
That’s according to a new study of U.S. monuments that strengthens the argument for reconsidering many of these statues. But it’s a process that should have some standards to it beyond the remove-anything-that-makes-anyone-angry dynamic too often in play lately.
Communities have been sporadically rethinking their monuments for years, but last year’s murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer, and the resulting racial reckoning across America, gave the issue new focus. It is against that backdrop that the Philadelphia-based Monument Lab, made up of curators, artists and others, has released its “National Monument Audit,” quantifying who gets immortalized for what.