San Francisco prepares to erase history over racism concerns

Neetu Chandak, DCNF

The San Francisco Board of Appeals unanimously voted Wednesday to remove a statue that showed the founding of California over racism concerns.

Some American Indian activists found the “Early Days” statue degrading and racist as it showed an American Indian at the feet of a Spanish cowboy and a Catholic missionary. American Indian groups have tried to remove the statue for over 30 years, but efforts were renewed by the San Francisco Arts Commission in October 2017 following the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia over removing Confederate statues the previous August, according to the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday.

Image: The Early Days statue, Wikipedia

San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission was on board to remove the statue in February as long as a plaque was placed that explained the reason for the removal, KQED reported.

The appeals board decided not to remove the statue in April. Board member Rick Swig said removing it would impede free speech, according to East Bay Times.

The statue is one of five bronze statues that make up the Pioneer Monument and shows the founding of California, the Chronicle reported. The five-member board decided to look into the issue again in June.

San Francisco Arts Commission spokeswoman Kate Patterson didn’t give the exact date of the statue’s removal due to security reasons, according to East Bay Times.

“The San Francisco Arts Commission can now move forward with the removal of this racist and disrespectful sculpture, which has no place in our city,” Patterson said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Following its removal, the sculpture will be placed in storage, and a didactic plaque will be erected near the monument explaining the rationale for the sculpture’s removal.”

A Mahatma Gandhi statue still stands at the San Francisco Ferry Building, though protesters from Organizations for Minorities of India wanted the statue taken down and replaced with either Martin Luther King Jr. or low-caste Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar in 2010, SFGate reported Oct. 2, 2010. The organization focuses on bringing attention to the oppression those lowest in the Hindu caste system.

“The popular image of Gandhi as an egalitarian pacifist is a myth,” Bhajan Singh, one of the organizers, said in a statement, according to SFGate. “We plan to challenge that myth by disseminating Gandhi’s own words to expose his racism and sham nonviolence.”

Gandhi wrote in a 1893 letter to the Natal parliament that the Indians in the colonies thought that they were better than the “savages or the Natives of Africa,” BBC reported on Sept. 17, 2015.

Arts Commission President P.J. Johnston said at the time that the Gandhi statue was likely not coming down, SFGate reported.

The board did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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