It Wasn’t Going to Stop With Confederate Statues: Monuments to White Pioneers in Kalamazoo, Michigan and San Francisco Being Torn Down Because of Claims of “Racism”


There’s mixed reaction after a late-night decision to remove the Fountain of the Pioneers from Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park. 

Pioneer Monument in San Francisco is coming down; a similarly named monument in Kalamazoo, Michigan is also being removed
The 5 to 1 city commission vote was finalized around 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. 
The decision means the controversial monument and the two reflecting pools will be relocated from the park within a few months. 
Kalamazoo City Manger Jim Ritemsa says removal will make Bronson Park more welcoming and promote the idea of racial healing and social acceptance within the community
“We felt it was time for Kalamazoo to make a stand around racism, and the time was now,” Ritesma said. 
Monday’s vote also changes a $2.8 million master plan for Bronson Park, which included $1.25 million in repairs to repair the concrete fountain. Fundraising was put on hold last fall after the fountain debate reemerged.
“I think it’s an ambiguous and subversive work of art that needs to be used as a teaching tool,” Marcia Stucki, a co-chair for the 21st Century Bronson Campaign, said.
The 21st Century Bronson Campaign was launched in 2016 with a goal to raise money for the park. To date, $2.2 million has been raised, according to city leaders.
Ritsema says more than $500,000 in pledges have been directed specifically toward fountain repairs. 
“We are going to reach out to donors specifically for the fountain and inform of their decision, and let them decide if they want their donation returned or if they want to donate it to the entire larger project,” Ritesma said. 
Stucki says her family’s foundation, Stucki Family Foundation has pledged $35,000 to the 21st century Bronson Campaign since 2016. However, Stucki said she will withdraw her pledge after after Tuesday’s vote to remove the Fountain of the Pioneers. 
“I am absolutely done with the city of Kalamazoo. My family is done with any contributions to Kalamazoo,” Stucki said.

Chaser. [After final vote, city will remove racist Pioneer Monument statue: Last days for “Early Days”, San Francisco Curbed, 3-7-18]:

As anticipated, the San Francisco Arts Commission voted unanimously Monday to remove the “Early Days” statue from Civic Center’s Pioneer Monument, placing the century-plus old bronze figures in storage until a long-term decision about their fate can be made.

The decision caps off a six-month long debate, after some San Franciscans approached the commission in August 2017 to complain about the statue, which features a pious but patronizing scene of a Spanish missionary helping a beaten Indian to his feet and pointing him toward heaven.

In February the city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend removing “Early Days” despite some commissioners expressing reservations about whether the sculpture has additional value as an expose of 19th century racism.

Argument over the “Early Days” scene dates back decades and the city considered removing the figures once before, according to an Arts Commission report on the statue released in February:

The “Early Days” sculpture grouping has been a longstanding point of concern for the community. Extensive debate occurred […] in 1990‐1996 when the Pioneer Monument was relocated to its current site in order to make way for the construction of the New Main Library.

In August 2017, almost immediately following the events in Charlottesville, North Carolina surrounding the removal of a monument to Confederate general Robert E. Lee, the Arts Commission began receiving renewed requests from the public to remove the “Early Days” sculpture from the Pioneer Monument.

At the core of the repeated requests for removal is the allegorical sculpture’s depiction of the degradation and genocide of Native American peoples, utilizing visual stereotypes common at the turn of the twentieth century to depict all Native Americans which are now universally viewed as disrespectful, misleading, and racist.

The Arts Commission voted in October to begin considering removal; a series of unanimous votes since then means that the final days for “Early Days” are fast approaching. The rest of Pioneer Monument will remain intact.

No matter what state they are located in, no matter to what white people they honor, every statue erected for a white person – regardless of the ideology they espoused in life – will come down. It doesn’t matter if they were Confederates or spent their entire life agitating for advancing the rights of colored people, monuments to every white person or white people in general across the USA will come down.


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