How Much is a Racist Statue Worth to New Orleans?


The individuals who advocate for keeping up Confederate monuments always circle back to the same point, ignoring arguments that the monuments represent a racist regime, that they glorify individuals that enslaved others, with an indifference that only the stone busts they protect could rival. 

“But”.. they counter, their voice sopping with patriotism and a concern that would seem genuine if what they were saying wasn’t so dangerously misguided, “They teach history. How will the kids learn?”

Hmmm, I don’t know, maybe they could open an effing textbook. Visit a museum. Watch a documentary. 

There are dozens of ways they could learn about racist figures that would be more effective than visiting a ten-foot high marble statue of a guy who donated money to schools, but, oh yeah, also had a plantation full of enslaved people who worked for him under the threat of death and torture. 

Racist monuments have never been about teaching history. They are about glorifying the south’s history and commemorating problematic individuals. 

You can tell because they are quite literally lifting up the individuals that they showcase. You have to look up at them. The figures are often artfully carved, given a sense of dignity and elegance. They don’t teach history, they teach a false version of history in which the people they commemorate are actually worth honoring. 

There are much more appropriate places and ways to showcase racist memorials that would more accurately reflect who they represent. For example, take a memorial for a slave owner, put it in a museum next to plaques that explain the atrocities that individual committed, how the statue use to be kept as a memorial until recently, and how it was moved because honoring a slave holder can send some mixed messages to people about how they should treat black people. 

The place the John McDonogh’s statue found also works. His memorial, which previously resided in New Orleans, was liberated from its podium by protestors, painted in bright colors, and thrown into the Mississippi river. It was left to sink and soak in the mud next to other worthless pieces of trash like a Doritos bag and to-go daiquiri cup. 

Because that’s what a memorial that glorifies slavery is: worthless. 

Some may argue, “But John McDonogh was a good guy! He donated all that money to New Orleans and Baltimore schools after he died!”

As he should have. 

It wasn’t his money. 

It was money that rightfully belonged to the individuals who he forced to tirelessly work for him, promising them that they could “buy their freedom” after 15 years. 

His statue should have been taken down a long time ago, and the protestors who did it did the New Orleans City government a service. They showed how easy statue removal can be, only needing a chisel, rope, skateboard, and some manpower. 

In connection with the event, two protestors were arrested, Caleb Wassel and Michaela Davis. They were initially booked on numerous charges which were knocked down to Wassel being booked with theft worth less than $1,000 and possession of stolen goods while Davis was booked with principal theft. Both were also charged with inciting a riot. 

However, unable to let the situation lie, the Monumental Task Committee reared its ugly head asking the New Orleans city government for permission to privately appraise the statue so they could, “provide accurate, professional information to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the NOPD, & the Dept of Property Management.”

In emails with the New Orleans city government a Monumental Task Committee representative explained that they had, “Been in touch with the NOPD in efforts to get an accurate value for the bust.” They explained, “You may be aware that the bronze bust was created in 1933 by renowned New Orleans sculptor Angela Gregory who also created a number of other public works of art for the city.”

In short, the Monumental Task Committee is the person who shows up at the funeral of a person they didn’t even know, and complains about the catering to the grieving family. “Worst funeral we’ve been too. Terrible appetizers! The pasta salad needs salt! I CANNOT believe this happened to us. How inconvenient we had a terrible lunch today.” 

In the middle of a movement exposing racial injustice across the country, centered around the murders of countless black men by police officers, nobody gives a shit that you lost a nice piece of art.

The Monumental Task Committee has often been involved in opposing monument removal efforts, claiming, “No healthy society should be removing public monuments financed and erected by its own people. Louisiana and New Orleans have long histories in relation to the United States, and our region has a unique lasting historical culture due to preservation efforts…The destruction of public memorials, through vandalism or toppling, is the antithesis of diversity and inclusion. It is extreme intolerance.”  

You know what is actually “the antithesis of diversity and inclusion”? Being a slave owner. Honoring slave owners. Having racist statues. No healthy society would have monuments that lift one group up by stepping on the backs, pain, and struggles of other individuals. 

Disappointingly, the New Orleans city government responded to the email with permission for them to appraise the statue. Initially the statue was estimated to be between $5,000 to $10,000 by the NOPD. However, the appraisal value was $50,000 which could raise the charges against the two protestors who were arrested. This could increase the possible maximum sentence up to 10 years with a maximum fine of $10,000. 

Thankfully, as of now, changes to the charges are not anticipated. However, by allowing the appraisal, the New Orleans city government has given worth to a monument that should be regarded as worthless. Memorializing these statues gives worth to racist ideas, values and figures while removing statues takes away that worth. 

By allowing the appraisal they again lifted up John McDonogh, in turn, disrespecting the humans he enslaved, telling them their pain, and lives that were stolen are not significant enough to warrant his statue’s dismissal and  destruction.

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