On Wednesday, Monument Lab launched the excellent audit of its evaluation. The takeaway of this exceptional work is unmistakable and sobering: Too lots of our nation’s monuments misrepresent our collective historical past, silence our many various voices, and warp who we’re as a nation.
The audit discovered that our commemorative panorama is overwhelmingly White and male. Of the 50 folks most often honored by monuments within the examine set, 89% had been White and 95% had been males. There have been extra monuments to mermaids (22) than to girls in Congress (2). Stereotypical and imagined feminine figures occupy more room than girls lawmakers who really lived and contributed to our historical past.
One other dominant development is the prevalence of American monuments that honor warfare and conquest. One-third of the monuments within the consultant examine set commemorate warfare, with almost 6,000 mentions of the Civil Warfare in contrast with simply 9 monuments that signify Reconstruction. Solely 9% of the monuments within the examine set point out veterans.
Altering this panorama has by no means been unusual. The primary recorded elimination of a monument in our nation — a statue of King George III of England, in New York — happened in 1776, 5 days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Monuments have been going up and coming down ceaselessly ever since. They aren’t perennial truths rooted within the topography of the USA. They aren’t 1,000-years-old redwoods, or historical riverbeds, or mountain ranges that change on an enormous geologic time scale.
Peaks like Denali or Mauna Kea are culturally sacred and nationally important landforms elementary to our pure world. Mount Rushmore, which commemorates 4 American presidents in South Dakota, and Stone Mountain, which commemorates three White supremacist Accomplice leaders in Georgia, usually are not. These two monuments had been made to really feel as immemorial as if that they had been created by plate tectonics. However they’re merely people-made artifacts that goal to show us who’s — and who shouldn’t be — thought-about price venerating in our nation.
As this audit reveals, our present commemorative panorama doesn’t signify our many various voices, nor does it mirror our exceptional collective historical past. Essentially the most sturdy monuments in the USA haven’t endured as a result of they greatest inform the tales of who we’re, however as a result of they’re the merchandise of probably the most monetary sources and hegemony in its many kinds — racial, ethnic, non secular, and gender-based.
The examine is highly effective proof that we have to do higher.
Now that we’ve got surveyed and analyzed those who at the moment form our public areas, we can not unlearn what we’ve got discovered. We can not unknow what we now learn about how a lot our monuments misrepresent us. If we’re to maneuver towards a extra simply and equitable future in the USA, our commemorative panorama wants to vary.
Making this transformation will depend on all of us. And so, if you stroll outdoors as we speak, take a couple of minutes to go searching.
What are the markers and memorials that you just see?
What are the echoes that you just hear?
Which tales are captured on plinths or plaques … and whose voices do you assume is likely to be lacking?