Toppling Statues Doesn’t Change History

The University of Oregon is a monument to racism like everything else we touch in our country. The university was birthed within our bloody history of repression and our university played its part in it. With that thinking, any part of the university can be destroyed in the name of eliminating racist symbols. So why just confine ourselves to a couple of old statues, as if those alone represent the highest expression of racism of our founding? None of this history or its consequences has gone away by removing the statues.

Last Friday in northeast Portland, 40 members of a larger BLM demonstration vandalized the community and attempted to burn down a police station. The following day, a Black community leader denounced the violence: “You have to come in the name of love. You cannot oppress the oppressor, that will never work.” Wise words from a man who has experienced the injustices of our society.

The writers of “Why They Had to Go” (EW 6-25) state that not submitting to earlier demands to remove the statues caused a sense of urgency, resulting in their being vandalized, and that some could no longer wait. I do not believe their frustration of waiting for the end of systematic racism is any greater than that of the Black citizens of northeast Portland. Yet that community stood against vandalizing in the name of anti-racism.

In the final analysis, you must ask what will be erected in its place, if we cannot stand the sight of our own history and learn from it.

Richard Young


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