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Mayor Turner requests study of Confederate statues

From the inbox.

Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked top staff members to study whether statues related to the Confederacy should be removed from city property.

The mayor commented about the statues Tuesday at a City Council meeting after members of the public urged the city to remove the statues from its public spaces because, they said, the statues honor slavery and racism.

Staff members will compile an inventory of the statues and “provide me with recommendations about what steps we need to take,” the mayor said.

“It is my hope that we can, in a very positive and constructive way, move forward,” Mayor Turner added.

No date has been set for action on the issue.

Public comments may be sent by e-mail to cultural.affairs@houstontx.gov

Here’s the Chron story related to this.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston residents stirred by racial clashes in Virginia are demanding removal of a Confederate monument that has sat largely unnoticed more than 100 years in a quiet corner of Sam Houston Park.

The downtown monument – titled Spirit of the Confederacy – features a bronze statue of a defiant, winged angel holding a sword and palm leaf.

“To all the heroes of the South who fought for the Principles of States Rights,” reads the inscription.

For Timbergrove resident Christina Gorczynski, it’s time for the monument to go.

Gorczynski joined about a dozen residents at City Hall Tuesday in urging city leaders to take down a symbol they say celebrates slavery and racism.

“As a city, we must demonstrate our commitment to fulfilling the unfulfilled promise of equity for all,” Gorczynski said. “We must demolish the symbols that celebrate an evil institution of slavery – those that through their mere existence reinforce and maintain a culture of white supremacy.”

In response, Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered city staff to assess Houston’s public art collection and recommend future steps in light of the requests for the city to remove Confederate monuments.

“The important thing is that as we move forward, that we recognize history is also what it is,” he said during the City Council’s public session Tuesday. “History has its good. History has its bad. But I do think it’s important for us to review our inventory and then to make the most appropriate decision that’s in the best interest of our city and that does not glorify those things that we shouldn’t be glorifying.”

This is the statue in question. Which, like nearly all statues of its kind, was built decades after the end of the Civil War as a way of demonstrating the restoration of white dominance of political power. It’s the very history of these statues that tells us what they’re about. As a Yankee who has always understood the Confederacy to be a treasonous violent rebellion for the purposes of preserving slavery, I have no problem at all with ashcanning these anachronisms. Put them in a museum where their historic context can be properly documented, or put them in a basement somewhere, I don’t care. If Baltimore can do it, so can Houston. Gray Matters and the Press have more.

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36 Comments

  1. PDiddie says:

    Really? How much study does this need?

  2. Off the top of my head…

    1. How many of these things are there? What are they and where are they? I know of one, in the link above. I only know of it because I saw a friend on Facebook point it out. What is the scope of this project?

    2. Once we have identified all of the statues we intend to Do Something about, what do we intend to do with them? Find a museum willing to take them? Sell them to private collectors? Put them in storage somewhere? Topple them to the street as if they were odes to Saddam Hussein and then dance around them?

    3. Are we going to engage public feedback on this in some fashion? If so, to what end – in other words, if 90% of the people who offer feedback demand that we do nothing, do we agree to do nothing? Or are we just letting folks vent?

    4. Who’s in charge of this and accountable for the end result? Parks and Rec? Public Works? A special to-be-appointed commission? Mayor Turner? HR McMaster? You?

    I could probably keep going, but I think you get the idea.

  3. Sure wish you guys felt this way about the criminalizing of the Charitable feeding of the poor. I don’t really care about the statutes. I agree to a very large extent that these statutes belong in a museum. I have zero emotional connection to the confederacy. I personally don’t think the government should be building statutes in parks. That includes the George Bush Statute downtown. However, it does smack of a Historical Cleansing. I am curious how do you guys feel about Gettysburg? What about local control?

    On another note…Kuffner is a Yankee? That explains a lot. Still a real good blog.

  4. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Take the statues down. Statues are for closers.

  5. LOL Statutes does not equal Statues. I know that a typo.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    With all of the problems in Houston, quality of life plummeting, and the lack of leadership, Turner thinks that staff needs to study whether or not to remove a statue which nobody even notices anyway? As an Italian American I am deeply offended by any thought of removing the work of an Italian sculptor, but, of course, my feelings aren’t important. I am not connected to the Democrat machine like Christina Gorczynski and her 10 friends. Turner is a career low level state politician who lacks any original ideas and I have no idea why KPFT was fawning all over him when he was on their show last week. Nobody asks him any tough questions. They act as if he lays golden eggs.

  7. brad m says:

    Jason, can specify what you mean by the “quality of life plummeting”?

  8. The Public says:

    If taking down these statues isn’t a big deal then why the uproar? Take them down and move on. It’s really a no-brainer.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    Should I even bother to say I support leaving the statues in place? They aren’t costing the city any money just being there, unlike the Astrodome. Ripping the statues down to temporarily placate people who will never be satisfied is spending money that could be better spent on most any other thing the city does. How about fixing a few sewer or water line leaks instead of removing the statues? Heck, build an extra few miles of bike paths with that money. Why not tear down La Carafe, too? There’s probably something upsetting to somebody about that bar, so we need to level that. It’s just madness.

    The line needs to be held here. No more destroying history. Leave that to ISIS.

  10. The homeless or soon to be homeless don’t need happy meals from mcdonalds

    They need a paid sick leave, equal pay, wage theft and ban the box ordinances

    So many lawyers, so few ideas.

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    Meanwhile, in the idyllic land of south Chicago, people are so outraged about confederate statues that they burn a statue of…….Abraham Lincoln.

    http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Abe-Lincoln-Statue-Burned-on-Chicagos-South-Side-440897443.html

    It’s nice they took a break from killing each other for a few minutes to take time to come together and burn a statue of a guy directly responsible for freeing slaves. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so tragic.

  12. Flypusher says:

    Good news Bill, there are these things called books that people can use to learn history. I also heard that this guy named Ken Burns did a little film-making on that very subject!

  13. Flypusher says:

    That’s quite a red herring you just landed Bill. Could be a record! Some idiots in Chicago did something stupid, so of course we should just stop any effort to purge that toxic myth that the Confederacy was a noble and just cause.

  14. Jason Hochman says:

    Bill, Lincoln opposed expansion of slavery, but was reluctant to abolish it where it existed. Instead, he expected it to eventually end on its own. He was a racist: “there is a physical difference between the white and black races that will for ever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality.” He wanted to send emancipated slaves to their own country. Of course, today, science tells us that this is complete hogwash. There is no biological or scientific basis for “race.” It is simply a political device, and, as we can see from this discussion, it is very effective. But, there is no excuse for not taking down statues of Lincoln.

  15. Flypusher says:

    This was posted on another forum, credit to someone with an Internet ID of TheDogAteMyHomework:

    “The standard line in opposition to the effort to remove Confederate monuments is that we shouldn’t erase, whitewash, or sanitize history, as if somehow removing these monuments would erase the actual deeds and people they memorialize. But a monument is not simply an academic portrayal of an event or a person. It’s not there to simply inform people in a disinterested manner about something that happened or someone who existed. Its purpose is to convey a specific message about how we perceive that event or person. The Vietnam Memorial invites us to consider the human toll of the war in a personal and emotional way, but it makes no statement about the war itself. The Lincoln Memorial focuses on the man himself and represents an expression of our collective admiration for that man and his deeds. The 9/11 Memorial evokes the horror, suffering, and loss of that event.

    There’s a reason why the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colorado doesn’t feature statues of Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris, why the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial doesn’t include a statue of Timothy McVeigh, and why we don’t revere sculptured images of the hijackers at the 9/11 Memorial. Those people are of course inseparable from the horrors they inflicted, but it is the events and their victims that we memorialize, not the perpetrators of their suffering.

    And so we must ask ourselves what the purpose and message of monuments to the Confederacy is. What is the idea or ideal they represent? Clearly they are not simple reminders that a war once happened, that it was an unfortunate affair, and that certain people were involved. To the contrary, they represent deliberate symbols of reverence to the men they depict. Symbols of reverence to men who took up arms against their own country and caused the deaths of roughly 620,000 human being, all in an effort to preserve the twin institution of slavery and white supremacy and to defeat the American ideal of egalitarianism.

    These monuments were also erected – in almost every case long after the end of the Civil War – in a deliberate effort to send a very specific message to a very specific group of people: You may have won the battles, but we won the war. You will never be equal to us. You will never be welcome here. That was the real whitewashing of history. Today’s effort is merely a long-overdue attempt to reverse what for much too long has represented a perversion of our ideals and principles, and a rejection of everything we say makes our country great.

    Figures like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathan Bedford Forrest are important historical figures in the sense that they played prominent roles in a significant event that had a lasting effect. So are people like Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and Attila The Hun. And of course people like Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, and Timothy McVeigh. Removing monuments to Confederate leaders isn’t an effort to forget that they ever lived. It’s an effort to change how and why we remember them, and to send a strong message that their mission failed. That the people they sought to oppress ARE welcome here. That we ARE a single, united nation. And that we believe what we say about the American ideals we espouse so often.”

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    Fly:

    I like to do my part, LOL.

    Some idiot in a Dodge did something stupid in Charlottesville, and of course we should just knee jerk and tear down historical monuments here in Houston, because feelz.

    @Jason: Good write up. You think the people that burned down the Lincoln statue had that in mind when they doused Abe with flammable liquid and lit him up? And hey, as long as we are tearing down Lincoln statues, that will open up some room in D.C. when we demolish the Lincoln Memorial

  17. Flypusher says:

    In a bit on supreme irony (which is really becoming all too common these days), Ed Rogers, who is as servile a Trump apologists as I’ve ever seen pen an OpEd, was dismayed and disgusted by Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville. He also proposed a most excellent “should this statue stay” test: “If a child asks what someone did that earned them a statue and the only possible answer is that he fought in the Civil War to defend slavery, then the statue should go.”

    So to apply that to Lincoln, a short answer is that he preserved the Union, and regardless of his personal feelings about Black people, ended the abomination of slavery. Therefore Lincoln is worthy of honor in the public square, and your false equivalance is mind-numbingly stupid.

  18. Flypusher says:

    No Bill, those monuments should come down for reasons I quoted above. You are using the logical fallacy of false equivalence with Lincoln.

  19. Bill Daniels says:

    Fly,

    The fact that you even have some kind of purity test, “should this stay or should it go,” is chilling in and of itself. Kristallnacht comes to Houston. Yay. This really is a cultural revolution, and I agree with your logic about Lincoln, but it seems the south side Chicago debate club disagrees with you. I would note that one of the two, now pariah, statues we are talking about here in H-Town isn’t commemorating a single person, but rather dead Confederate soldiers in general, and you are using the same kind of faulty argument when you oversimplify the conflict as only about slavery. The broader issue of states rights vs. a powerful central government (which encompasses the slavery issue as a subset) is what those dead guys were fighting about. Is that worthy of a statue? I’m assuming you aren’t happy about SB4 and Trump’s emphasis on deporting undocumented immigrants. You can point to the La Migra truck whisking someone away to be deported as an example of an overpowered federal government infringing on states rights, particularly their right to be “sanctuary” states or protect sanctuary cities.

  20. Bill Daniels says:

    Fly,

    For what it’s worth, it wasn’t me that promoted tearing down Lincoln statues, it was Jason:

    “But, there is no excuse for not taking down statues of Lincoln.”

    I’m the guy who doesn’t want to tear down any statues, not even the Lenin in Seattle

  21. Bill Daniels says:

    3. Are we going to engage public feedback on this in some fashion? If so, to what end – in other words, if 90% of the people who offer feedback demand that we do nothing, do we agree to do nothing? Or are we just letting folks vent?

    I have the perfect solution. Get Kubosh to put a petition together to get this vote on the next ballot, and let the voters decide.

  22. Did someone say gather a petition?

  23. Flypusher says:

    “The fact that you even have some kind of purity test, “should this stay or should it go,” is chilling in and of itself. Kristallnacht comes to Houston.”

    Your chills come from the fact that you keep missing a very important distinction- the one between REMEMEBRING and HONORING. Putting a statue of a person in a prominent and public space is an honor. That honor is bestowed because that person did something the community considers to be good and is looked on as a role model. Damn straight you should apply a “purity test” (I prefer the term “standards”) when you are considering who deserves a statue in the public square and who doesn’t, otherwise bestowing an honor has no meaning. The question of “what did this person do to deserve a statue in a place of honor?” is appropriate and relevant.

    I’m fine with the oft-repeated opinion that the statues can go to museums or cemeteries or private parks. That’s not erasing history and it’s also not honoring a very unworthy cause.

    “Yay. This really is a cultural revolution, and I agree with your logic about Lincoln, but it seems the south side Chicago debate club disagrees with you.”

    I have no hesitations in calling out those people for being wrong. But seriously the Confederate monuments are low hanging fruit. The real tough debate is with someone like Woodrow Wilson.

    “I would note that one of the two, now pariah, statues we are talking about here in H-Town isn’t commemorating a single person, but rather dead Confederate soldiers in general, and you are using the same kind of faulty argument when you oversimplify the conflict as only about slavery. The broader issue of states rights vs. a powerful central government (which encompasses the slavery issue as a subset) is what those dead guys were fighting about. Is that worthy of a statue?”

    Why not put the statue you mention in a cemetery? As for the cause of the conflict, the Confederates were crystal clear in their statements of what they considered the cornerstone of their society to be. Black people were inferior to White people, and that justified treating Black people as if they were livestock. That’s an evil foundation to build upon. But you really think that saying, “hey, they were also concerned about states rights” somehow dilutes that evil? Also methinks that you have never bothered to read through the CSA constitution. If you had, you would have seen that it actually is more restrictive of state autonomy than the USA constitution. For example, no state could have decided to do away with slavery.

  24. Bill Daniels says:

    Fly:

    Would you be OK with letting this issue go to a vote, maybe with the upcoming bonds? I’d have to insist that the ballot language include exactly what other city service will lose budget money to pay for this elective work.

    Also, your whole argument falls apart when you consider that the US Constitution contained the 3/5ths compromise. That’s an evil foundation to build upon, too. If that’s the metric, then there are a whole lot more statues that need to come down, and I’m not talking about Confederate statues.

    The bottom line is that this is our own version of ISIS blowing up antiquities in Palmyra and other places, and just like ISIS, the people clamoring and rioting in the streets to have these statues ripped down will not stop, will not relent, and will not be placated.

    I’m watching the news right now. Guess what statue got vandalized now? Christopher Columbus, in Bell Park. It won’t stop, and this pretty much just boils down to lawlessness vs. law and order.

    Count me as a law and order partisan. ALL the statues stay, including Columbus, Washington (yeah, there’s been a call for Washington to be purged from Chicago), Lincoln, Stalin, and others.

    Why should the taxpayers of Bell Park have to pay to move Christopher Columbus to a museum or defensible private property? Ol’ Chris obviously failed someone’s standards test.

  25. Bill Daniels says:

    Here’s Vice (magazine) tweeting about blowing up Mt. Rushmore. It apparently was subsequently deleted, but, the internet never forgets.

    https://i.redd.it/11mk4sfvgcgz.jpg

    I’m sure we won’t have to wait long for the “blow up Stone Mountain” hysterics to start, if they haven’t already.

  26. Bill Daniels says:

    Here’s a really good read from Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator, about mass hysteria. I think it dovetails nicely into this discussion:

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/164297628606/how-to-know-youre-in-a-mass-hysteria-bubble

  27. Flypusher says:

    “Also, your whole argument falls apart when you consider that the US Constitution contained the 3/5ths compromise. That’s an evil foundation to build upon, too. If that’s the metric, then there are a whole lot more statues that need to come down, and I’m not talking about Confederate statues.”

    Damn, Bill really do have a miss the forrest for the trees issue. The 3/5 compromise was indeed a symptom of a national birth defect, but the main driver of what started the Civil War was the conflict between those who wanted to fix that birth defect, and those who wanted to keep it, because they made profit and/or it gave them someone to look down on. The US Constitution as orginally written did allow for slavery, but did not prohibit abolishing slavery. Not so with the CSA consitiution. The Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal”. Quite true that the people who wrote it didn’t fully walk that walk, but that idea is indeed a fine foundation to build your nation on. Go read the Conderate declarations if you already haven’t. You’ll find many naseuating variations on we’re superior, so we get to enslave people. More false equivalence.

    As for putting this to a vote, I could support that if the choice is very specifically spelled out. Not remove the statue, yes or no, but rather keep the statue where it is or move it to an already determined new location.

  28. Jason Hochman says:

    WE should not fall victim to the divisiveness pushed upon us by back bench politicians. It is important not to lose sight of Mayor Turner’s lack of ideas.

  29. Jason Hochman says:

    I just read about the MLK statue being sprayed with white paint and the Columbus statue splattered with red paint. This irresponsible revival of a war that ended 150 years ago is only divisive and mindless. Leadership vacuum. Is it possible to recall the mayor? Before he ignites the statue war.

  30. PDiddie says:

    I fisked your (really and truly, dumb) questions here. Man o’ Mann, your game needs a lot of work, old buddy.

  31. Per Perry, no more study is needed in Houston. Or up here in Dallas, where Mayor Rawlings wants a “task force” with a 90-day timetable.

    As to what to do with them?

    Drop EVERY ONE on Vidor. Destroy that whole sundown town.

  32. Whatever, Perry. I hereby use my blogging powers to appoint you the person in charge of what to do with these things. Have fun.

  33. Bill Daniels says:

    @Socratic:

    Make sure you get all the Christopher Columbus statues in the purge, too. They all have to go.

    http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2017/08/19/demonstration-white-supremacy-christopher-columbus/583189001/

    Actually, just to be on the safe side, we ought to just rip down any statue of a white male.

  34. […] Bill Daniels on Mayor Turner requests study of Confederate statues […]

  35. C.L. says:

    Hold on, what did Columbus do…in the 1490’s, FFS… to warrant getting his statue[s] torn down… besides kidnapping some indigenous folk ?

  36. Bill Daniels says:

    Big thanks to ESPN, for keeping us safe from triggering Asian sports reporters named Robert Lee:

    https://i.redd.it/xubs53pkydhz.jpg

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