Remove Confederate Plaque from Park in Westchester, NY
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Communities all across America are removing public tributes to the Confederacy, recognizing that while that chapter in our history is worth acknowledging and learning from, it is not worth celebrating. We in Westchester have a great opportunity to lend our support to this national effort by removing a plaque dedicating a tree to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The plaque is located along Lasdon Park and Arboretum's historic tree trail in Katonah, NY. It is completely separate from the tree and could easily be removed without any harm to the tree.
This effort is not about historical erasure--instead, it seeks to face the reality that our representation of history has always been selective. The park only became property of Westchester County in 1986. Lasdon Park and Arboretum's website says, "The Famous and Historic Tree Trail features trees and other species that honor historic events and famous Americans, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy, from our country’s past." It is worthwhile to know about why MLK, JFK, and countless others had to add to the struggle for equality and freedom, and in that context, understandable why Robert E. Lee is someone the public should be aware of--but it is important to consider how he is shown and what messages are sent by that.
This effort is also not about limiting free speech. Rather it is a great opportunity to talk about how we teach and think about history, who gets to make those decisions, and what the effects of those decisions are. This is an historical moment when Americans are thinking about how we see ourselves and who we really are. What a necessary conversation to be having! We welcome thoughtful debate.
While we understand there is a difference between a small park plaque and a statue in a public square, removing the plaque would be a powerful symbol of Westchester's solidarity with the larger movement to reject the glorification of slavery and its legacy. Most Confederate monuments were not in place since the confederacy attempted to secede from the union. They were erected later as symbols of white dominance for the purpose of encouraging those who supported it, and intimidating those who were opposed. For example the Confederate flag that Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole to remove was first raised in 1961--not 1866--no coincidence, when you consider that the Civil Rights Movement was gaining ground around that time.
Robert E. Lee is a symbol of the Confederacy and so he is a symbol of slavery and the poisonous lies that make up the white supremacist narrative and that have not stopped causing real harm.
Westchester County is a diverse, influential suburb of New York City, whose leadership on this issue would be viewed by many. A gesture of support is a very easy thing we can do right here without having to travel to Charlottesville or anywhere else. Let's do it! If you agree then please sign and share this petition. In a county of 975,000 people, can we get to 10,000 signatures?
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