Chicago Announces ‘Racial Healing And Historical Reckoning Project’ to Evaluate Public Memorials, Yet Allows Riots To Ravage City

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged the city would assess potentially offensive public art and memorials to try amending historical sin in the wake of national protests following the murder of George Floyd.

In a press release, a statement said, “The City of Chicago, in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Chicago Park District (Parks) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS), today announced a racial healing and historical reckoning project to assess the memorials, monuments and other art across Chicago.”

“The project will grapple with the often unacknowledged – or forgotten – history associated with the City’s various municipal art collections, and will provide a vehicle to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s true and complete history.”

The project will aim to catalog monuments and public art on City or sister agency property, appointing an advisory committee to determine which pieces warrant attention or action, making recommendations on any new monuments or public art that could be commissioned, and creating a platform for the public to engage in a civic dialogue about Chicago’s history. 

“This project represents the first step in a deliberative and long-needed process by which we as a city can assess the many monuments and memorials across our neighborhoods and communities,” Lightfoot said. “This effort is not just about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to purposefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of our city’s residents, particularly when it comes to the permanent memorialization of our history and shared heritage.”

Previously, the city removed two statues of Christopher Columbus in the early hours of July 24th, apparently to ease violence that has been ravaging the city for months. But merely tearing down statues has done little to quell the riots, instead mistakenly offering Creedence to rioters and legitimacy to their revolutionary cause. The city has ultimately done little to combat the violence tearing through itself, apparently too focused on tearing down monuments to try erasing history, as if removing statues amends historical sin.

On Monday, in response to the police wounding a man who “turned and fired shots” at the officers, according to Deputy Chief Delonda Tally, rioters pillaged Michigan Avenue with a U-Haul in tow. “Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago early Monday, smashing windows, looting stores, confronting police and at one point exchanging gunfire with officers,” according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Hundreds of people looted stores like Apple, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Coach, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton in what was described as a “widespread, coordinated attack,” according to CBS-Chicago. The riots escalated to the point where the city raised its bridges and shut down train and bus services to prevent violence from spreading.

“Absolute chaos in downtown Chicago with more overnight looting and vandalism in the Loop,” tweeted Ryan Baker, an anchor for WBBM-TV. “Appears to be coordinated effort with minimal police presence.”

On a larger point, rather than allowing statues to be commemoration of great contribution or for educational purposes, the progressive’s revision of American history demands the outright cancellation of statues for figures deemed unworthy, thereby diminishing nuanced and complex humans to black and white caricatures based upon their gravest sin. Since George Washington, unfortunately, owned slaves, we rescind his nobility and cast him aside, unable to allow his life to exist within a historical context. If monuments celebrate Chicago and its heritage, we must face the potentially ugly underbelly of certain historical figures head-on, not hide from them. 

We must also face the real problems that threaten our cities, like raging riots burning down Chicago, but their priorities are glaring. Trivially removing statues in vain efforts to avoid offending somebody takes precedence over reinstating law and order to protect innocent business and police officers under siege by unhinged riots.