The New York mayor ordered the removal of a statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by a Native American man and an African man, arguing it feeds into racial stereotypes.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Sunday.
De Blasio noted that the city authorities sided with the museum, calling the idea to get rid of the “problematic” statue, “the right decision” at the “right time.” The NYC mayor was apparently referring to the Black Lives Matter protests, which have seen activists taking out their anger on statues they see as celebrating the legacy of racism.
The museum said that it does not plan to ‘cancel’ Roosevelt altogether. After becoming president in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, known as Teddy, championed the nation’s conservationist efforts, providing federal protection for over 230 million acres of public land. While his statue will be removed, the museum will seek to honor his legacy by naming one of the halls after him, the museum’s president, Ellen Futter, told the Times.
The statue’s looming removal has been backed by the 26th president’s descendant, Theodore Roosevelt IV, who heaped scorn on the statue, which was unveiled in 1940, saying it does not reflect his ancestor’s values.
The announcement has triggered pushback as well as praise online.
Some cried foul over the move, noting that there are other historical figures far more deserving of the ‘honor’ of being knocked off their pedestals.
Others suggested that by removing the Roosevelt statue, the NYC authorities are taking a step down a slippery slope.
“We have officially entered French Revolution territory. If the radical left mob takes full power the heads of statues will be replaced with the careers of those who dare counter them,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the oldest conservative lobbying organization in the country, said.
US President Donald Trump, who earlier berated the “unhinged left wing mob” for “desecrating… our beautiful monuments,” spoke out in defense of the Roosevelt statue.
“Ridiculous, don’t do it!” he tweeted.
Some, however, said the decision, made amid ongoing protests, was long overdue.
While the majority of early ‘victims’ of the protesters’ holy war on historical monuments were Confederate generals, the crusade has recently expanded to include figures such as the 18th US president, Ulysses S. Grant, who led the northern Union soldiers in the American Civil War and helped bring an end to slavery.
The Grant statue was toppled in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Juneteenth along with that of Francis Scott Key, the lyricist behind ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
Both sculptures were defaced with graffiti, denouncing the men as “slave owners.” While that was true for Key, who owned multiple slaves, many netizens were baffled over the treatment of Grant. While the general did own one slave who he was given as a ‘gift’, he freed him shortly afterwards.