Everything right now is moving at warp speed. It’s too much and too fast—but, at the same time, also not nearly enough and many, many years overdue.
We’re witnessing a civil rights movement with very clear (if not always unified) demands: Defund the police. Invest in people and communities of color. Do the work to break down internalized racial biases.
These are moral, righteous fights. People are putting their bodies on the line. (If you’re a white person opting in now, that’s a privilege in itself—BIPOC people have rarely been afforded that choice.)
And still, with so many taking to the streets to fight for a better world, there are others who are choosing their fight—their hill to die on, metaphorically speaking—unwisely.
Here’s a bad hill to commit even one iota of your finite time on earth defending: inanimate objects, more specifically statues, of loser Confederate war criminals, slave traders, or Christopher Columbus, the man credited with colonizing what is called the “New World” only because the people who had lived on that land for generations weren’t white.
It’s difficult to imagine the set of life choices that led a group of men in Bristol, England, to jump into the harbor in hopes of “saving” a statue of slave trader Edward Colston that had been removed and heaved into the water by protesters.
Colston’s company was responsible for stealing more than 100,000 West Africans away from their homes and sending them to be slaves in America and the Caribbean in the 17th century. The statue was old, I guess, erected in 1895. And yet, these guys again:
It’s not just unwise—it’s ludicrous, deranged, racist. This is what they’ve chosen to defend: a likeness of a slave trader.
And yet, it’s happening here, too, and has been for some time. I remember covering the uproar around removing Confederate monuments during the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests years (and at least two websites) ago. Localities and their merry bands of white idiots fought hard against their removal on the bad faith grounds of “heritage, not hate.” This time around, it feels like more local officials have given up the game; they know which way the wind is blowing, and they know that if they don’t agree to remove Confederate monuments on their own, someone will do it for them.
So who are the idiots fighting for instead? Christopher Columbus. If America’s most famous colonizer was spared last time around, he’s not faring so well now: Statues of Columbus have now been removed in Richmond, VA, outside the Minnesota State Capitol, and in Boston and Camden, N.J.
The idiots defending him are—along with their allies like Ted Cruz—a swath of Italian Americans, including the man who inspired so many terminally liberal minds to declare themselves things like “Cuomosexual.”
“The statue represents, in some ways, the Italian American legacy in this country,” Andrew Cuomo said when asked if New York City’s massive Columbus landmark should be removed. “The statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York, and so for that reason I support it.”
Why you would want the symbol of your contribution to this country to be a man known for enslaving, sexually abusing, and otherwise brutalizing native peoples is beyond me. (I’m not Italian.) But what a deeply telling hill to choose!
Our runner-up for worst hill of the week goes to (now former) Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport, who resigned on Monday after a photo of him dressed as “boricua” for Halloween surfaced. Our former stablemates at Jezebel reached out to him for comment as part of their reporting on the culture of racism Rapoport helped foster during his tenure. As is often the case with reporting on subjects who are in hot water, Rapoport didn’t respond before the story ran. He offered excuses as to why, but used his response to Jezebel to choose his hill, which was essentially, ok so I’ve done bad things but to be fair that does NOT qualify as wearing “brownface.”
Jezebel editor in chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote about the whole deranged email exchange between Rapoport, reporter Hazel Cills, and herself. Here’s one choice bit, from Rapoport:
One thing I would ask, if I may. You refer to my being in brown face in that photo. As inexcusable and terrible as that photograph is, I was not wearing any makeup or face coloring in it. I have gone on record with both the New York Times and Business Insider to clarify this.
Again: What an incredible hill to die on, yes, I (reportedly) helped create a work environment where BIPOC were devalued and overtaxed as a matter of policy, but I did not do like, the full Al Jolson.
I suppose it makes some twisted logical sense: If you’re a historically powerful and privileged person who sees the writing on the wall—that the systems which have long kept you safe and well taken care of are crumbling at their foundation—you have to fight mightily over whatever ground you have left. Even if it’s not a hill at all, but more a sad, desperate molehill.