Vote No on Measure M, Says Letter to the Editor
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As somebody who has written extensively about history and memory, and participated in campaigns to bring a social justice perspective to pubic memorials, I urge residents of Arcata to vote “No” on Measure M.
A public memorial can in my view serve one or more functions: acknowledge an atrocity or injustice committed against a large number of people in the past; celebrate social movements and leaders who have fought against injustice and inequality; and symbolize a community’s aspirations to create a society based on equality and dignity.
The McKinley statue meets none of these criteria. As president McKinley was associated with a war in the Philippines that practiced unspeakable repression and cruelties (including “water boarding”) against thousands of Filipinos. Under his leadership, racism against African Americans increased. He did not support any movements for social justice in California, including efforts by Native organizations to achieve reparations and return of stolen artefacts and human remains.
Moreover, the decision to erect the McKinley statue was made undemocratically by local political and economic elites. After the McKinley statue is gone, we should have an engaged public debate about how the Arcata plaza can represent the best of us and our aspirations for equality, justice, and dignity.
Tony Platt, a Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Law and Society, is the author of twelve books, includingGrave Matters: Excavating California’s Buried Past (2011) and Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States (January 2019) He lives in Berkeley and Big Lagoon.