Scrutinizing whether enslavers should be honored in U.S. Capitol art, and other news

In this post:

  • U.S. Capitol artwork reviewed for connections to slavery, Confederacy
  • Hennepin County Board approves ‘Dakota Land and Water Acknowledgment Statement’
  • Social Services disproportionately terminate parental rights for Black, Native American families
  • Higher levels of heavy metals found in BIPOC communities’ drinking water
  • Winter storm hits Pine Ridge hard

U.S. Capitol art reviewed for connections to slavery, Confederacy

U.S. Capitol painting of Gen. George Washington resigning his commission; 34 of the 47 men depicted were enslavers. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Capitol has 141 works of art honoring enslavers and 13 works honoring people who would eventually join the Confederacy, according a Washington Post review of nearly 400 works of art.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise; the artwork has been in plain sight for a long, long, time. Perhaps a Capitol art review has more urgency now, since a Jan. 6 rioter carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol during the insurrection trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Congress voted to remove the bust of Supreme Court justice and enslaver Roger B. Taney from the Capitol, NPR reported. Taney wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision, which upheld slavery. A bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, will replace Taney.

Efforts to review and critique art in public spaces is growing. (Baltimore removed a monument honoring Taney at Mount Vernon in 2017. Only an empty pedestal remains.)

Change often is met with strong resistance. Violence and death followed Charlottesville, Virginia’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. Minnesota officials moved two paintings out of the Governor’s Conference Room. They were offensive to the Dakota people and other Native and non-Native allies. It was a political slog, and troubling artwork remains.

Hennepin County Board approves ‘Dakota Land and Water Acknowledgment Statement’

The Hennepin County Board voted Nov. 1 to approve a statement acknowledging “the unresolved legacy of genocide, dispossession, and settler colonialism” on the Dakota people, the land’s original people.

The resolution states: “Hennepin County acknowledges that the magnificent land and vibrant waterways from which our institutions benefit, are located upon the cultural, spiritual, and indigenous homeland of the Dakota Oyate (Dakota Nation). …

The statement acknowledges the county’s current capacity “to work more closely and reparatively with the Dakota people, whose homeland we occupy,” as well as with the Ojibwe and other Indigenous peoples.

A diverse work group, including Native American county elders, developed the two-page statement, the Star Tribune reported, calling the document “historic.”

Here’s hoping it is. The City of Minneapolis has passed high-sounding resolutions around addressing racism which don’t seem to have made a significant difference in business as usual.

Social Services disproportionately terminate parental rights for Black, Native American families

In six months or less, some parents lose their kids forever after having their parental rights terminated, according to a story in ProPublica.

Congress passed a law 25 years ago allowing for the termination of parental rights, “aimed at speeding up adoptions of children languishing in foster care,” the story said.

Once considered a last resort reserved for parents who abandon their children, the involuntary and permanent termination of parental rights now hangs over every mother and father accused of any form of abuse or neglect — including allegations of nonviolent behavior like drug use or truancy … Known in the legal world as the “death penalty” of child welfare, it can happen in a matter of months. …

According to a recent study, the risk that a child will experience the loss of their legal relationship with their parents roughly doubled from 2000 to 2016. One in 100 U.S. children — disproportionately Black and Native American — experience termination through the child welfare system before they turn 18, the study found.


Full story here.

Higher levels of heavy metals found in BIPOC communities’ drinking water

“Higher concentrations of arsenic and uranium were found in public drinking water in communities with greater proportions of Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Black residents, new research shows,” according to a story in The Hill. 

Researchers measured uranium and arsenic levels in drinking water across the country, the story said. Areas with higher proportions of BIPOC residents were “linked with higher concentrations of metals in public drinking water. … Both metals are associated with serious health problems including cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

Meanwhile, drinking water for white residents was linked with lower arsenic and uranium levels, a finding “consistent regardless of socioeconomic status,” the story said.

Winter storm hits Pine Ridge hard

High winds and 30 inches of snow hit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during the recent round of winter storms, MPR reported Monday.

“Roads are blocked and resources are cut off,” the story said. “Some tribe members have had to burn their clothes in wood stoves to keep warm because they have run out of firewood.”

The story has an on-line donations link to help with the recovery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s