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Opinion

Opinion: If slavery and racism disqualify Confederates and Father Serra, we’ll be removing statues for a while

Statues commemorating Confederate figures
A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
(Michael Reynolds / EPA)

To the editor: The Los Angeles Times’ editorial advocating for the removal of statues in the U.S. Capitol that honor Confederate leaders and California’s Father Junipero Serra speaks volumes about the ambiguity of such actions. (“Why on earth do we have Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol?” editorial, Sept. 22)

Most troubling is the statement: “When statues and memorials represent, to many, the exaltation of racism and slavery, they have no place in our public places.”

Does this mean The Times would support the eradication of the Washington and Jefferson memorials? And since it was Franklin Roosevelt who authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, I would assume his memorial should also be removed.

This inconsistency demonstrates why The Times appears to have quite a quandary answering its own question of whether all sins are equally disqualifying.

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Jim Redhead, San Diego

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To the editor: My thanks for your editorial’s nuanced views on historical monuments.

In considering whether statutes of the Confederacy’s leaders should be removed while those of slave-owner founding fathers are retained, The Times rightly suggests that not all sins are “equally disqualifying.” Then you pose a pivotal query: “Doesn’t society have the maturity to tell the difference?”

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Ouch! You ask this question of a society that has become ever more tribal and increasingly celebrates willful ignorance.

Get back to me when Americans begin to spurn such crass distractions as “reality” TV shows and turn to more refined programming such as that offered by PBS. Our society’s maturity may be a long time coming.

Christine Hagel, Orcutt, Calif.

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To the editor: California is represented in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall by Serra and Ronald Reagan. The Times calls for removing Serra, but doesn’t suggest who should replace him.

Turns out there’s a statue ready to be sent to Washington, where a statue of Thomas Starr King stood alongside Serra’s from 1931 until it was replaced in 2009 by Reagan’s.

Starr King was a pivotal figure in our state’s history. A minister and powerful orator who spoke out against slavery in a state full of Confederate sympathizers, he was credited by Abraham Lincoln with keeping California in the Union.

The state Legislature should remove Serra and reinstate Starr King. Since Starr King’s statue now sits in the park that surrounds the State Capitol in Sacramento, this would involve little more than shipping expenses.

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By replacing Serra with Starr King, California would make a strong and lasting statement for human rights and against slavery of all kinds.

Ted Trzyna, Claremont

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