The whole nation is about to become one big, happy “safe space.”
Calls for the removal of all Confederate statues and all symbols of confederacy have escalated across the nation recently. Now, a Chicago pastor has something else to add to the list: He wants to change the names of two city parks as they were named after former presidents who owned slaves.
Bishop James Dukes, pastor of the Liberation Christian Center, posted a copy of a letter on his Facebook page Tuesday evening which he said he sent to Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District, calling on them to change the names of Washington and Jackson parks.
“Slave owners do not deserve the honor of our children playing in parks named after them. There is no way a Native American Community would allow a General Custer Park or a Jewish Community allow a Gestapo Park in their community,” Dukes declared.
In an interview with local CBS News, Dukes said the parks could be named after African American heroes instead, such as Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson and Michael Jackson.
Calls for statues to be removed, names to be changed, and history to be erased have been flooding the news recently, including in the city of Portland, Oregon, which is removing the name “Lynch” from its schools because it has ‘racial implications,’ and might offend the children.
Below is the letter posted by Pastor James Dukes:
To: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and The Chicago Park District Board:
We as a country are trying to heal from the deep and often infected wounds of slavery and racism in the United States. There has been a national movement to eradicate symbols of slavery, racism, and confederacy in major cities across America.
We as Chicagoans must now take the microscope and place it on the statues, monuments and parks that we give honor to. We cannot allow slavery and racism to be awarded in our communities by honoring individuals that indeed partook in the very institution that has kidnapped, murdered, raped, and terrorized our forefather and mothers. The institution of slavery denied education, voting rights, marriage, family unity and property ownership. It has caused generations of psychological trauma, inequality, and lack of wealth that are still prevalent in the lives of us (the descendants of slaves).
We, as a country and city, must heal. That healing can only happen by making moral choices that reflect the creed, that all people are created equal and respected. We will not allow the atrocities of slavery and racism to live through memories in our communities; instead, they should be eradicated and dismantled.
I am feeling ambivalent that I would have to walk my child, attend a parade or enjoy a game of softball in a park that commemorates the memory of a slave owner.
Therefore, I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago. They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade. I fully expect that the Chicago Park District and Mayor Rahm Emanuel share in my sentiments and views; that Chicago will not be a place that embraces racism, slavery and its treacherous tentacles. But rather, Chicago will be a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow for all its’ residents.
Love and Respect
+Bishop James E. Dukes
In the comments in response to the pastor’s letter, some people are agreeing with him, while others are pounding him with a huge backlash of disapproval.
One reader, James, asked, “How about doing away with the Democratic Party. They were the ones who wanted slavery to continue. Do away with money too, slave owners pictures on cash.”
Dukes responded, “No, I will be content just doing away with the murdering, kidnapping, raping and torturing presidents Washington and Jackson [t]hat owned and sold my ancestors. that would be just fine.”
Another reader, Pat, brought up a new idea: “To be logically consistent, that pastor will also have to stop singing, “Amazing Grace,” because John Newton, the author, was a slave owner, a slave trader, and even had sex slaves in Africa.”
Dukes responded to that, saying, “Never said I sang that song. No problem. [T]hat’s a deal. Now take it down.”
Someone else asked, “Should we also change the name of our nation’s capital? History is to be taught and understood with nuance and context, not erased and censored in the style of ISIS.”
Dukes replied, “I am not advocating for the removal of Washington from everything in America, just from community that don’t view him as a hero because he owned slaves. Which means he participated in the rape, lynching, murder, kidnapping of my grandparents.”
Another reader suggested he focus on abortion instead. “Hey, I have an idea Pastor…..why don’t you stop the aborting, and murder of your own people by your own people first? It’s just a statute, everyday black babies are murdered in abortion clinics and the church sits silent. Do something that really matters.”
Wise advice was shared by Tod, who said, ” I would like to ask you a honest question I have and I am not bashing you or anyone else. Where does this end? Do we need to destroy the White House as it was constructed by slave and what about the stone monuments carved in the mountains out west that has the head of past presidents on them do we need to destroy them also? I totally understand your thought on a park in your neighborhood but I also do not believe that your grandchildren or young children are going to walk through the park and ask why the park is named after a man that owned slaves unless someone else is putting that thought in their heads. We must come together as a nation and remember that is our history NOT our present situation. I really hope you take the time to reply to me respectfully TA.”
Dukes responded that by changing the name on the park, it would “show how far we have come as a country.”
Dukes posted another comment on his Facebook page Wednesday, saying, “Why does it bother other cultures and nationalities that I would dare say a slaveowner like George Washington is not [an] African American hero? Do you honestly believe they would let us name a park in Mt Greenwood… Fred Hampton Park?
“Do you really believe they would let me go into Lincoln Park and have a statue of Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson or Huey P Newton. The answer is a resounding NO!”
The fallout from the Charlottesville rally has been unprecedented to say the least. In this week alone, the removal and scheduled removal of monuments, plaques and memorials is uncanny.
A six-foot monument that has stood in a Confederate section of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for almost 100 years is now coming down, cemetery officials have reported. All it took to get rid of the monument, first erected in 1925, was a Change.org petition calling for its removal, vandalism with a black marker, and a few death threats received.
A plaque honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee that has been affixed to a maple tree outside a Brooklyn church for more than 100 years is being removed.
Under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night, Baltimore officials directed the removal of four Confederate statues from its city on Wednesday. Early Wednesday, police accompanied the crews that removed the statues from their bases, loaded them onto flatbed trucks and hauled them away without notice.
The mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, made national headlines over the weekend when he responded to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, by announcing that he is expediting plans to remove all Confederate statues from public locations within his city. The statues are reportedly not being destroyed, but will be relocated from their current locations on public land to a separate area called “Veterans Park.”
President Trump literally warned Americans at his press conference this would happen, stating: “They’re out taking down statues. Who’s next, George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson, he had many slaves. Are we taking down his statues next? Where does it stop?”
And considering the fact that Mayor Emanuel isn’t a rule listener or favorable of the Trump administration, he likely will grant the pastor’s wish in removing the country’s first president’s name from the park.
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