I do not understand how people can have such an infatuation with statues. I get what they represent – a half-told story of the past while symbolizing perceived triumphant moments in history. Still, I genuinely don't understand why people are so defensive when it comes to tearing them down.
As a sports writer, I like to make analogies to help people better understand how ridiculous it is to complain for a foolish reason. During the average summer, I find myself at Target Field for 5-10 Twins games. I enter in the right-field entrance and walk by the Harmon Killebrew statue outside of the gate.
Killebrew is known for being one of the best hitters in MLB history. His 573 home runs were enough to make him a sure-fire Hall-of-Fame inductee. However, what if he had done something horrible during his career off the field? If an athlete with as much popularity as Killebrew were a known pedophile or owned slaves, people wouldn't defend him to the death by saying, "OK, but he hit all those home runs, so we should keep the statue."
Great athletes who do horrible things off the field don't get a free pass. We don't see sculptures of OJ Simpson or Lenny Dykstra because they are bad people, even though their careers probably warrant that level of recognition. Why don't we hold historical political figures to the same standard?
I understand what men like Christopher Columbus have done for this country, but it doesn't excuse the fact that he owned slaves, pillaged and raped Native Americans and brought diseases to a foreign land. He also wasn't the first foreigner to discover North America. That title belongs to Lief Erikson in 1452.
Ignorant people also turn a blind eye to the injustices of Mount Rushmore figureheads. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, while Abraham Lincoln believed that Black people shouldn't have the same rights as white men. Theodore Roosevelt was a closet white supremacist and thought women were there for breeding purposes. Not to mention, all of these faces sit on stolen land that is sacred to the Lakota Sioux tribe in the Black Hills. The monument shouldn't be there in the first place. Instead, we excuse racist's past for the sake of a tourist attraction.
While I understand that the times they lived in were different from right now, why do we celebrate their times now? Just because we've been wrong as a society for a long time doesn't give us excuses to keep being wrong.
Most importantly, these statues need to go because people find them offensive. I used to be the kind of person that said people are too sensitive and need to grow up, but who am I to tell somebody that? What have I gone through in my life to tell a Black man or woman what they can and can't find offensive?
This is precisely why the Washington football team is changing its name. A “Redskin” is not the name of a tribe of indigenous people, but instead a blatantly racist name pointing out their skin color. If you, as a white person, don't find it offensive, that's fine. But if you're going to tell an oppressed group of people how to feel when you defend racist names and actions, you are utterly moronic and unnecessarily stubborn for the sake of being racist.
If a group of people finds a team name offensive, change the name. This isn't about bending the knee. It's about making people feel emotionally comfortable in their own skin. If "Vikings" were an offensive name to an oppressed group of Europeans, I'd be bummed that I owned hurtful memorabilia instead of angry that a different culture is expressing their sadness.
There will always be people who refuse to change in an idiotic stance of systemic racism, which is undoubtedly prevalent. The rest of us will continue to educate ourselves and show empathy to people in and out of our community. It's not about you – it's about them.