A Washington, D.C. mayor-appointed committee, called the DCFACES working group, has recommended that over 150 buildings, statues and monuments within the District be renamed, removed or ‘contextualized’ because the historical figures they are named after either owned slaves, oppressed minorities, or in general failed to live up to the District’s current nondiscrimination laws.
The working group has been occupied for the last couple months with the task of completing its report and list of recommendations for Mayor Muriel Bowser. She recently tweeted, “This July, I tasked the DCFACES Working Group with evaluating public spaces to ensure the namesake’s legacy is consistent with #DCValues. They have delivered the report, and I look forward to reviewing and advancing their recommendations.”
The task force used the following criteria to disqualify historical figures:
- Enslaver of people
- Author of policy / legislation that suppressed persons of color and women
- Proponent of policy / legislation that suppressed persons of color and/or women
- Member of a supremacist organization active in the suppression of people of color
- Committed violation of the DC Human Rights Act
Not many historical figures can live up to such lofty standards. Included in the list of problematic names: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Christopher Columbus, James Monroe, Zachary Taylor, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson and J. Edgar Hoover.
Additionally, Abraham Lincoln made the list because of his depiction in the Emancipation Memorial, which commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation by which President Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the Confederate states in 1863. In a public survey of District residents, it was found that the Memorial was one of the most cited public assets “not in alignment with District values.”
Structures bearing offending historical names include monuments, schools, public buildings, residential housing, community and recreational centers, streets and bridges.
It’s one thing to rename a District-owned high school, although NBC affiliate 4Washington reports that it could cost $1 million alone to rename one school.
It’s quite another to recommend, as DCFACES did, that Mayor Bowser use her seat on the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to lobby the federal government to rename, remove or ‘contextualize’ federally owned sites like the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.
The reaction from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to that last recommendation was swift: “Not on my watch. Never going to happen,” he tweeted.
Mayor Bowser ordered the page on federal monuments removed from the report after Bernhardt’s tweet, telling reporters she wanted the task force to focus on sites located on local, not federal, land.
Bowser was wise to avoid a conflict with the vast majority of the American public who would take any effort to alter the status of treasured historical sites such as the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as an attack on our history and founding as a nation.
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