The New York City statute of an American president who won the Nobel Peace Prize is coming down because it offends racial sensibilities in the Black Lives Matter era, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback that sits at the Central Park West entrance to the American Museum of Natural History will be taken down. A timetable for its removal has not yet been released, nor is it clear where the statue will go once it is removed from the place where it has stood since 1940.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio said, according to The New York Times. “The city supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
Although Roosevelt made waves as a rugged leader whose foreign policy motto was “talk softly and carry a big stick,” he also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for ending the Russo-Japanese War. Roosevelt was one of the nation’s first conservationists, overseeing the early days of America’s national parks system.
But he has been criticized as typifying a spirit of colonialism and racial insensitivity, as has the statue, which portrays the former Rough Rider on horseback, flanked by a Native American and an African, who are both on foot.
“Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd,” museum president Ellen V. Futter told The Times. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism.”
Futter noted there was a difference between deploring the statue for its “hierarchical composition” and admiring the man, whom she called “a pioneering conservationist.”
To show that it still supports Roosevelt, the museum will name its Hall of Biodiversity for him “in recognition of his conservation legacy,” she said.
“We believe that moving the statue can be a symbol of progress in our commitment to build and sustain an inclusive and equitable society,” Futter said. “Our view has been evolving. This moment crystallized our thinking and galvanized us to action.”
Another tough-talking president objected to the plan.
Ridiculous, don’t do it! https://t.co/VYez8p9AJh
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
Others also sounded off about the plan.
Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to invite African-Americans to dine at the White House. https://t.co/6OtYByfInn
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) June 22, 2020
Teddy Roosevelt, when police commissioner, dressed in plain clothes to try to catch his cops behaving corruptly. It’s rumored he caught one, beat him, stripped him naked, and threw him in a dumpster.
He’d be totally cool with losing a statue in a campaign against corrupt cops.
— Beau of The Fifth Column (@BeauTFC) June 21, 2020
So now Teddy Roosevelt will be taken down. We have officially entered French Revolution territory. If the radical left mob takes full power the heads of statues will be replaced w the careers of those who dare counter them.
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) June 21, 2020
I like teddy roosevelt, I think most statues of him should stay up, but this, this statue shouldn’t pic.twitter.com/3Idzpf00NC
— crum™ (@extracrum) June 21, 2020
Theodore Roosevelt IV, 77, a great-grandson of the former president and also a museum trustee, said he supported the decision.
“The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,” he said in a statement, according to the New York Post. “The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”
“I’m glad to see it go,” Mabel Wilson, a Columbia University professor who served on a city commission that three years ago decided to let the statue stay, told The Times.
“The depiction of the Indigenous and the African trailing behind Roosevelt, who is strong and virile, was clearly a narrative of white racial superiority and domination,” she said.
The statue was vandalized in 2017 when protesters splashed red paint on it and called it a symbol of “patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.”
In addition to serving as president, Roosevelt was a New York City police commissioner and former governor of New York.
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