The Ethics of Racist Monuments

In David Boonin (ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Palgrave (2018)
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Abstract
In this chapter we focus on the debate over publicly-maintained racist monuments as it manifests in the mid-2010s Anglosphere, primarily in the US (chiefly regarding the over 700 monuments devoted to the Confederacy), but to some degree also in Britain and Commonwealth countries, especially South Africa (chiefly regarding monuments devoted to figures and events associated with colonialism and apartheid). After pointing to some representative examples of racist monuments, we discuss ways a monument can be thought racist, and neutrally categorize removalist and preservationist arguments heard in the monument debate. We suggest that both extremist and moderate removalist goals are likely to be self-defeating, and that when concerns of civic sustainability are put on moral par with those of fairness and justice, something like a Mandela-era preservationist policy is best: one which removes the most offensive of the minor racist monuments, but which focuses on closing the monumentary gap between peoples and reframing existing racist monuments.
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