Statues, Symbolism: Anarcha

Statues, Symbolism: Anarcha
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<p>Anarcha and Dr. J. Marion Sims</p>

Anarcha and Dr. J. Marion Sims

Illustration by Robert Thom. Pearson Museum, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

Do you know the story of Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy? They are the predecessors of Henrietta Lacks but with a more morbid history – black female slaves operated on by white doctors without anesthesia and consent – a gift to science from their slave masters. The statue in east Harlem honors the doctor that did the experimentation, Dr. J. Marion Sims. The New York Times article sheds a little light on Dr. Sims, but for a complete picture, I would suggest also reading the NPR article and podcast about Anarcha. Months ago, New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, gave a moving speech on why these monuments had to come down. It took the events in Charlottesville before others acted.

For Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW), know Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy’s stories and why Dr. Sims statue should be removed. I am always amazed how people see the swastika as a symbol of oppression and racism towards Jews, but cannot understand how Confederate flags and statues are a symbol of oppression and racism towards blacks. Worst yet, maybe they do see but don’t value black lives the same. Oops. I said that out loud.

A reader commented that taking down the statues only served to remove “white guilt.” My response was that I understand the Phil Ochs’ Love Me I'm a Liberal mentality. However, the statues do not belong in our neighborhoods. They belong in a museum, preferably the National African-American History Museum, similar to a Holocaust museum that shows what the statues stand for - an atrocity against humanity and American values. To expose the “boil of racism in America,” borrowing the words of MLK, you have to peel back the layers. This is the first step in removal, the easy step that makes liberals feel good. After that, you have to peel another layer and so on. With each layer you expose covert, systemic, and institutional racism of not only whites but self-hating blacks.

“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This originally appeared on Ronda’s blog, Ronda-isms.

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