Commemorative Monuments, Land Use, and Racial Reconciliation: A Test-Case for Replacement of Symbolic Memorials to Advance Psychological Integration
Edward H. Sisson
affiliation not provided to SSRN
December 20, 2008
The election of Barack Obama, the first African-American President, provides a precious opportunity for the advancement of racial reconciliation and integration in America that not only is the morally right thing to do, but is also vital to the continuation of the pre-eminence of American world power. Our population is expected to grow by more than 100 million people over the next 40 years, and to include higher proportions of African-Americans and other racial/ethnic minorities. As Lincoln said, a house that is divided against itself cannot stand, and America of the future is going to be more and more a population in which there is no one clear and dominating racial/ethnic majority. Thus the strength of the nation requires that racial/ethnic differences no longer be the source of emotional differences that lead to the division of the American house. The dilution and ultimate dissipation of the emotional attitudes that are the foundation of discrimination is a goal devoutly to be wished.
Yet dotted about our nation are monuments, statues, and memorials to people of an earlier time who, in important respects, stand for discriminatory - indeed, bigoted - attitudes that inspire in the hearts of today's onlookers an emotional reaction of revulsion. We ask ourselves: is there in our hearts today some remnant of those attitudes, that leads to the preservation and perpetuation of these offensive stones, shaped in the likeness of racists, engraved with words praising the perpetrators of divisiveness and division? To people who are members of the race demeaned by such men, such stones act as a physical repellent, driving them away from the region. This produces economic effects as the members of the disfavored target group refuse to live or work or engage in recreation in the area tainted by the racist symbol.
America, more so than any other nation, is a country in which contemporary generations renew and remake the landscape. If a stone is psychologically radioactive to a particular population group, causing them to avoid a part of America, does not simple human decency for their feelings compel all citizens to want to remove the stone?
This paper presents an example, a kind of case-study, for the replacement of a memorial to a United States Senator within Washington, D.C. It is offered here as an example of how to develop, document, and argue the case for removal of such a memorial and replace it with a memorial to one or two other persons. At the time of posting this paper, the effort has only just begun, and no result can yet be reported. The author will post updates, and evaluations of the process, as appropriate.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: Race relations, land use, memorials, integration, regional government, housing markets
JEL Classification: H52, O15, R14, R31, R41, R52, R53working papers series
Date posted: December 21, 2008
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