There are several concerns that people have expressed about this issue. This section is meant to clear up some of the confusion.
Q: I tend to vote according to the issues endorsed by my political party. How can I find out about endorsements?
A: At this point, HJA is aware that the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee has officially endorsed a NO vote on Measure M. Sources for this endorsement will be provided soon.
Q: Statue removal is estimated to cost $65,000. How can the city afford that?
A: The current adopted budget is $41,092,169.00. This places $65,000 at just 0.16% of the annual budget. Source. Arcata’s Capital Improvement Program Summary of Projects Proposed For Fiscal Year 2018-2019 details the 49 projects that have since proposal been approved for purchase, according to City Manager Karen Diemer. Over half of them cost more than $65,000 and these range in price from $75,000 to $8,000,000. The projects includes more than $525,000 on road improvements (potholes etc), $167,000 on creek and trail work, $150,000 for new bleachers at the Arcata Ball Park, $25,000 in Manholes. It is interesting that the city will spend $347,000 for merely designing various hoped-for improvements to the community, because this demonstrates the belief that communities are not stagnant and their designs should be reassessed at various times. Notable too is the private donor who gave $298,000 to the city for a Futsal Court. This certainly lends credence to Karen Diemer’s assurance that one person has offered to pay the entire cost of relocation, even out of state, and that a “handful” of people have offered to pay all costs to relocate the statue anywhere in the county. This sort of thing really does happen
Q: Isn’t the cost of statue removal likely to
A: The significantly increased costs associated with removal of the particularly galvanizing Confederate monuments is directly associated with the threat of physical violence by those opposed to such removals, as well as litigation. It is not associated with general errors in planning the cost of, say, equipment needed. The Confederate monuments are widely supported by white nationalists and cities have had to pay for private security consultants to assess and implement a variety of expensive security measures to protect the public and the contractors. Source. City staff and potential contractors have been harassed and threatened with violence in some cities such as New Orleans. One contractor has his car destroyed. Source. Few contractors are willing to conduct such high risk projects. Some cities have chosen to complete removal under cover of darkness in order to reduce threats of violence. Source. White supremacists and other far-right groups committed the majority of extremist-related murders in the United States in 2017. Source. It is important to note that according to Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, after some internal discussions, the city does not anticipate significant security issues.
Q: Wasn’t McKinley a supporter of civil rights?
A: Not for those most effected by the issue. McKinley used his power to dismantle five large Tribes which is an often-overlooked aspect of civil (and human) rights violations. He also carried out numerous proclamations that seized vast amounts of land or restructured lands around reservations, allowing for further encroachments by settlers. Additionally, through an executive order, he created an “Indian Boarding School” in Arizona. These schools were mandatory and were notorious for their role in the cultural and physical destruction of Indigenous Peoples in North America. You can read more about this under Legacy-North America. Then, as now, Indigenous Peoples are often completely omitted from these sorts of discussions, something that is very obvious on the Yes on M Facebook page. Second, McKinley was severely criticized by Black citizens (actual civil rights activists of the time) for the inadequacies of his response to the brutalities of white supremacy. Source. Members of this group included eventual founders of the NAACP, former slaves and civil war veterans. McKinley also opposed voting rights at a crucial time when they were most needed: before becoming president, he actively worked to oppose the growing resolve among his party to enhance voting rights for Southern Black people. He succeeded. Source.
Q: Isn’t removing the statue erasing history?
A: History is recorded in text and in the memories of those who lived it and is not “erased” through the removal of one statue. The McKinley statue is surrounded by a relatively large example of the physical embodiment of white culture and history in this region. You can find the same thing in Trinidad, Eureka etc. In many ways, statues like that of McKinley serve to erase the histories of those most affected by the figure’s actions. This includes the history of interconnected legacies that people like McKinley imposed on countless people, including in Humboldt County. Unless we find pride in the most egregious of McKinley’s actions, we must suppress, or erase, the full truth of his history in order to make an emotional and cognitive space for his celebration. If we simply do not care, it is important to ask ourselves why. If these events seem too long ago to matter, why then does McKinley, himself a relic of late 19th century America, matter so much?
Q Why should we remove a statue just because it’s offensive?
A: The word “offensive” is inadequate to describe the issue of this statue’s removal. Indeed, no single word can accurately represent the concepts involved. This becomes evident as one reviews the material in this project. If you could substitute the entirety of the concepts outlined in this project for the word “offensive”, would you still be asking this question? If you were part of the groups most negatively effected by the ideologies covered in this project, what then?
Q: My family has been here for generations. How can these new-comers say what happens to our statue?
A: This question is based on a recent event at the Arcata Farmers Market. A pair of elderly women challenged a veteran who was tabling about this issue on the plaza. When he told them he had been here since the 1980’s they responded that wasn’t long enough and to go back to where he came from. Ironically, they illustrate the point of this rebuttal quite plainly. Those who would claim to speak with more authority because of “tenure” must automatically cede that position to the Wiyot Tribe and any other Indigenous group calling for removal of the statue.
Q: Why does the information in this project compare the McKinley statue to those of the Confederacy?
A: The Confederacy fought to maintain slavery as an institution in order to ensure a source of wealth and power. Deprivation, forms of isolation, gruesome punishments and executions were used to instill terror and enforce this institution.
McKinley fought to initiate and maintain another permutation of slavery in multiple nations in order to ensure a source of wealth and power. Ways of life and language were literally outlawed, economies were dismantled, people were removed from leadership and land. In Guam their books were burned. They were killed if they resisted. In the Philippines, vast numbers were killed and unarmed children as young as 10 were targeted as readily as armed adults. All of this was done in order to enforce the institution that McKinley and his agents were determined to construct. How is this different from the Confederacy?
If we agree that slavery under the Confederacy was immoral and that statues of Confederates therefore must be removed, then isn’t a statue of a president who enslaved entire nations also in need of removal?
Q: Didn’t McKinley grow up in an abolitionist household? Wasn’t he a civil war veteran?
A: These points come up often and are used as some of the primary reasons the statue of McKinley should not be removed. He certainly was a civil war veteran and historians do say that he grew up in an “abolitionist household.” Like many first impressions, these points have a big impact on how some view McKinley because there are a lot of assumptions that are made about how he must have treated people, especially when tasked with managing the power and responsibility of president. Just like many first impressions however, they do not accurately represent McKinley as president, which is what that statue represents. The most egregious of his deeds deserve the most attention. If one starts with these and works backwards towards his childhood, it becomes clear that his actions as president (or even shortly before his presidency) far outweigh the two points mentioned in this answer. It was not the “positive” values present in his childhood home (which, it should be said, did not include the rights of Indigenous Peoples to exist) nor his military service that are at issue. These points are best thought of as “red herrings.”