End Racist Roots at the University of Nevada, Reno
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Racism is being openly displayed at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 1908, a statue of John Mackay was dedicated by the University of Nevada, Reno. John Mackay was a famous miner who discovered the Big Bonanza ore body during the Comstock Lode in 1873 (Buell, “John Mackay Statue”). John Mackay donated a portion of his earnings to the State of Nevada and was awarded a statue in his honor. At first glance, the statue may seem like an appropriate recognition and celebration of John Mackay, his discoveries, and donations to the State of Nevada. Yet with a more critical analysis -one that we are encouraged to foster by our own University- many racial controversies emerge regarding the origins on the John Mackay statue, as well as the Comstock Lode itself.
Most glaringly, is the fact that the statue was created by Gutzon Borglum, an open KKK member and violent racist (“10 Well-Known US Figures Affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan). In addition to his KKK involvement, Gutzon was known for creating carvings and statues of racist public figures, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis (“10 Well-Known US Figures Affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.”). Gutzon spread the oppression of Black and Brown people through his art, allowing racist leaders to be amplified on a larger scale than ever before. By allowing John Mackay’s statue to remain on our campus, we are supporting the racist roots of its creator.
As if Gutzon Borglum’s presence at the University of Nevada, Reno isn’t compelling enough, we must turn our attention to the Comstock Lode and John Mackay’s involvement in a systemically racist system. The Comstock Lode was a hot spot for silver mining located in Virginia City, Nevada during the late 1800’s (Wikipedia, “Comstock Lode”). When the discovery of silver was released for public knowledge in 1859, many miners rushed to the west coast to get their share of the treasure (Wikipedia, “Comstock Lode”). This influx of white migration lead to Pyramid Lake, where whites began to “torture Native American families, stealing their horses and killing members of their band” (Shearer, 759). The majority of this violence was inflicted by white men, creating a disproportionate profit off the land and livestock of Indigenous people in Nevada (Edwards, “Comstock Lode”). Reparations were not paid to Indigenous populations that were violently robbed of their land and loved ones. In conjunction, the enslavement of Black people did not officially end until 1865 (“History of Juneteenth”). This largely limited Black representation in the mining industry and eliminated mining wealth accumulation for Black populations in America. The Comstock Lode accumulated profits for white men, while simultaneously violating the human rights of both Black and Indigenous people.
John Mackay’s wealth was made largely off the backs of Black and Indigenous people in America. John Mackay spearheaded the Comstock Lode; therefore, he strengthened white supremacy and patriarchy, violence against Black and Brown people, and the stealing of Indigenous lands for white profit. Knowing this history, imagine being a Black or Brown person at the University of Nevada, Reno. Having to see this overt and covert racism presented with pride, every day on our campus. The University of Nevada, Reno promotes itself as anti-racist, inclusive, and diverse. It’s time we start acting like it- remove the statue of John Mackay!
Amanda Buell and Reno Historical Team. “John Mackay Statue.” Reno Historical, accessed July 30, 2020, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/68 (Buell, “John Mackay Statue”)
“Comstock Lode.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comstock_Lode
Edwards, Jerome. “Comstock Lode.” Online Nevada, http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/comstock-lode (Edwards, “Comstock Lode”)
“History of Juneteenth.” Juneteenth, https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm
Shearer, Benjamin. The Uniting States: Louisiana to Ohio. Greenwood, 2004.
“10 Well-Known US Figures Affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.” History Collection, https://historycollection.com/10-well-known-us-figures-affiliated-with-the-ku-klux-klan/3/
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