Wednesday, 2 September 2020

DC committee pushes for capital makeover stripped of names of slaveholders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson

A committee advising Democratic Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed renaming dozens of schools, parks, and various other government buildings over their namesakes' connections to slavery, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Included in the list of individuals who the committee says should not have public works named after them are former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson; Revolutionary leader Benjamin Franklin; explorer Christopher Columbus, and national anthem writer Francis Scott Key.
Never mind the fact that the city itself is named after George Washington and the district after Christopher Columbus.
The report, put together by the mayor's senior adviser Beverly Perry and public library director Richard Reyes-Gavilan, labeled 153 of the 1,330 individuals who have something named after them in the capital as "persons of concern" for their past conduct.
According to the report, the criteria for renaming included whether the namesakes owned slaves, supported the institution of slavery, passed laws disparaging women or minorities, belonged to a "supremacist organization," or discriminated against a marginalized group.

In all, the committee deemed problematic the naming of some 22 schools, 2 libraries, 11 recreational centers, and 78 streets, and 8 monuments or memorials — essentially pushing for a "cancel culture" makeover of the nation's capital.
"We believe strongly that all District of Columbia owned public spaces, facilities and commemorative works should only honor those individuals who exemplified those values such as equity, opportunity and diversity that DC residents hold dear," Perry and Reyes-Gavilan wrote in the recommendation.
"Commemoration on a District of Columbia asset is a high honor reserved for esteemed persons with a legacy that merits recognition," they added.
The move is likely to reignite public debate over renaming public assets that commemorate the nation's history.
As Black Lives Matter protests raged in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in late May, several on the left pushed for renaming everything that could be feasibly deemed offensive from product brands to national monuments.
This latest effort may be the most aggressive and sweeping yet, but it won't be entirely easy to enact. The Post noted in its report that certain assets, such as schools, usually undergo a rigorous "public engagement process" before being renamed. Other assets, such as streets, parks, and government buildings can be independently renamed by the city council.
Many of the monuments in the district are actually owned by the federal government, and are under its control.
The committee suggests that assets such as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial be recommended for removal, relocation, or be given additional contextualization by the federal government.

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