By: SNJ Today Staff
CAMDEN, N.J. — Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said that with the murder of George Floyd, and current demonstrations against racial injustice, now is the time to “reevaluate” historical monuments.
“It is our responsibility to constantly reevaluate our heritage and the legacies of those who left their mark on history,” Cappelli said in a statement. “Our symbolic celebration of heritage should reflect a celebration of those who shared the values we exhibit today, not those whose actions and beliefs are viewed abhorrently as society progresses.”
Cappelli said that with the murder of George Floyd and the demonstations against racial injustice, has “has inspired many to reconsider monuments and statues of historical figures in their communities.”
“In many parts of the country, citizens and their public officials are correctly calling out memorials of confederate leaders who fought against the United States during the Civil War – actions which led directly to the continuation of slavery and a century of racist policies and institutionalized oppression,” Cappelli said. “For too long, the pain and anger that these statues caused black and brown Americans was ignored. Today’s dialogue is an important step for our country as we decide which of our leaders have stood up to the test of history, and those whose legacy is no longer, or never was, deserving of our adoration.”
Some monuments, though, carry with it meaning larger than the individual depicted.
“For many, the story of Columbus was taught to them as one of a brave explorer who stumbled upon an uninhabited new world, setting in motion the colonization of the Americas,” Cappelli stated. “What was not taught was that Columbus arrived in a land inhabited by Native peoples, that he was directly responsible for the slaughter of many of these Natives, and that countless other atrocities were committed at his direction.”
According to Cappelli, the Freeholder Board recognizes the right of all people to celebrate their heritage.
“The removal of statues and monuments does not have to mean the removal of a group’s right to celebrate their lineage,” Cappelli said. “The Freeholder Board will be working with the Sons of Italy to develop new artwork which celebrates Italian heritage in Cooper River Park. Moving forward, we will be initiating a dialogue with the Sons of Italy to determine how to best repatriate their Christopher Columbus statue from the park to a private location.”
Cappelli said that the current moment in America is one of healing and has been long overdue.
“These decisions and discussions may be difficult, and at times they may be uncomfortable, but they will ultimately move us toward a more just, equitable society for all Americans,” he said.
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