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Does Cal State Long Beach's 'Prospector Pete' celebrate California's racist past? Don't be so sure about it

Does Cal State Long Beach's 'Prospector Pete' celebrate California's racist past? Don't be so sure about it
Cali State Long Beach has announced that the controversial mascot "Prospector Pete" will be retired. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Aside from what many people project on the exquisitely sculpted figure created by Ben Barker, a Cal State Long Beach student sculptor who asked a husky classmate to pose for the statue that would come to be known as “Prospector Pete,” context should not be ignored or disregarded.

The bronze figure was originally created in reference to the founding college President Pete Peterson’s statement of having “struck the gold of education” by establishing an opportunity for students who may be the first in their family to attend college. That shines a whole different shimmer on the issue of the statue’s meaning: Does it represent oppression or opportunity?

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I, as a graduate and former faculty member at Cal State Long Beach, choose to focus on the latter.

Ben Miles, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: Being Italian, I find it hard to comprehend all this madness about statues of Christopher Columbus.

Anything can be made a symbol for something else. If we connect him to white settlers’ racism and violence in California in the 1800s, I think we’re off by a few hundred years. It’s the equivalent of covering a statue of Albert Einstein because of the atomic bomb.

I suggest that anyone who has issues with Columbus read about him. He was an explorer who put his life on the line, without any reservation, and changed our knowledge of the world forever.

Michele Castagnetti, Venice

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To the editor: Many people want to ascribe today’s mores to yesterday’s behaviors. Are Americans the only ones who practiced racism?

Japan was closed to non-Japanese people until about 165 years ago; China was closed off until just 40 years ago. And the Germans….

We cannot ignore the past. To understand and respect it, we should add other monuments along with the offending statues. What did various Native Americans believe? Why did the white migrants remove them from their lands?

This would give insight to the past and help us understand it.

Suzanne Brugman, La Habra Heights

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