New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu made national headlines for rationalizing his city’s iconoclastic fury in 2017.
“Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her?”
Purdue historian Caroline Janney explains the folly of Landrieu’s grandstanding:
“Landrieu’s removal of the statues, however, does precisely what he rails against: It omits the past. Empty pedestals are just that: void of meaning all together.”
Stripping our landscape of historical images that make us uncomfortable is simply a destructive solution to the complex task of interpreting our history. Rather than explain the past to the young girl, Landrieu would prefer she mature blissfully unaware.