May 11, 2017

New Orleans Monuments: A Different Perspective

Most of you have, by now, heard of the controversy surrounding the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans. The proposal to remove the four "nuisance" monuments came a week after the June 17, 2015 Charleston Church Massacre.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposal was approved In December of the same year, with a 6-1 vote in favor of removing the four contentious monuments.

In light of the recent controversy surrounding the elimination of the monuments Its worth investigating to see if perhaps there is more to the story than trying to mend the wounds of racism and civil war.

What is most interesting about the whole project is the secrecy surrounding the funding, plan and execution of the operation.  It would make more sense to me, and perhaps others, to bring these efforts into the light of truth that such undertakings deserve.  If we wish to address the issue of Racism, why must it be done under the cover of darkness with armed guards?

The total effort was projected to cost upward of $600,000 dollars according to Cuzan Services Limited, the only bidder on the job.  What many people may want to know is who is going to pay for all of this.  According to Mitch Landrieu, all costs will be covered by an anonymous private donor.  Which makes people wonder why the job isn't being opened up for competitive bidding according to city ordinance that requires such actions on all public works exceeding 154 thousand dollars.

What is also curious is the statement made by the Mayor's press secretary Hayne Rainey which reads:

"Once removed, the monuments will be stored in a city-owned warehouse until further plans can be developed for a private park or museum site in New Orleans where the monuments can be put in a fuller context,"

The reason this is curious to me is that in May of 2015 the City of New Orleans passed Resolution R-15-199 which supported the development of a National Slave Ship Museum to be located in the Garden District.

"The proposed $170 million museum will include a life-size interactive slave ship built inside a new five-story building and a riverfront park with an amphitheater and two replica African villages. The museum complex will also include a Creole Caribbean African restaurant, an herb and vegetable garden, a DNA lab, an exhibit and meeting space. As a part of the museum experience, visitors will have the opportunity to travel aboard a fully functioning replica slave ship that will sail to Natchez, Miss., and Scott's Bluff in Baton Rouge, located near Southern University.
District "B" Council member LaToya Cantrell said, "The National Slave Ship Museum will be the next great attraction for visitors and locals to experience. It will reconnect Americans to their complicated and rich history and provide a neutral ground for all of us to examine the costs of our country's development."

Now you might be saying "Well that was written before the Massacre by Dylan Roof.  The sentiment has changed as a result!"  And I might agree with you, if it weren't for the fact that, as of this writing, the Museum is slated for a 2018 Grand Opening.

While I understand both sides of this issue and the need to become more inclusive of all members of society, I'm troubled by the feeling that there is something different taking place in all of this.  It seems too much like Mitch Landrieu is seizing the emotional state of our body politic in order to bring his name to the national landscape.  It also appears that public money is being used to relocate monuments and that possibly those monuments could be used in a private works project for profit.

While I cannot say with 100% certainty my ideas on the matter, its worth mentioning that governments, more often than not, attempt to divide the populace in order to secure money, political recognition and power.  If the idea was to tear down monuments to slavery, why would the city then build an even bigger monument to slavery that will directly profit from its horrors?

I would also note that recent reports place Mayor Mitch Landrieu as a likely presidential candidate in 2020.  Though he was quoted as saying:

“It's always nice to have your name mentioned, and it's nice when people recognize what the city of New Orleans has done. But I've got a year left. I'm focused on that work and I haven't really [thought] about what I'm going to do after that,". 

We are no strangers to people saying they won't run for president as a sort of way to prove that their only focus is on the job today.  But when you consider that Landrieu has a long family history in politics, its fairly hard to take his "unambitious" claims seriously.

In all of this, I would ask the population to not fall victim to the division being created through government activism.  To have honest meaningful conversations about things that matter and to consider possible underlying causes of the recent fascination with racism in this country.

I leave you with this quote:

"I think it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony. It is particularly incumbent upon those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example."

1 comment:

  1. As you noted this decision to remove these monuments was decided democraticaly. It should also be noted is that they were put up and maintained by the government too.