A fractious national debate over public monuments has erupted in America, and scholar Erin L. Thompson weighs in on the past, present and future of these markers and shapers of public consciousness. She explores the surprising motivations behind contemporary flashpoints, including the toppling of a statue of Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol, the question of who should be represented on the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park and the decision by a museum of African American culture to display a Confederate monument removed from a public park.
... the upshot of Smashing Statues is to show that the whole damn system is guilty. Thompson leaves no doubt that even our nation’s proudest moments are shot through with bigoted ideology. She makes a compelling case that equality is not achievable so long as our monuments convey overt messages of white supremacy and so long as slave-owning white men’s names remain attached to buildings, parks, roads, and bridges. In so doing, she answers the question that often consumes public debate: how far back, and how deep, must we go? All the way and as deep as possible is Thompson’s unequivocal reply ... Thompson provides a compelling, historical account of how capitalism is both motivator and maintainer of institutional racism. She depicts clearly the role that monuments play in fostering the divisions necessary for labor exploitation ... But this made me wonder what monuments can do and what Thompson thinks they should do. Beyond calling for more monuments in which people can see themselves, she has less to say on this subject.