A writer for the Washington Post has said that generations of anti-US immigration sentiment, sexism and racism makes America’s Statue of Liberty a ‘meaningless symbol of hypocrisy’. The comment was made by Pulitzer Prize winner and the Washington Post’s art and architecture critic, Philip Kennicott.
According to Kennicott, the Statue of Liberty, which has stood for a century as one of the most iconic examples of American freedom, in fact represents generations of ‘unfulfilled promises’. He argued that the monument is ‘irrelevant to non-White Americans’, using a recent art exhibition as an example where he said that there were no representations of the statue.
However, many took to Twitter blasting Kennicott’s comments and accused him of trying to drag Lady Liberty into culture wars. One Twitter user described Kennicott’s comments as a ‘piece of woke cra*p’, while another called Kennicott a ‘snobbish little scold’.
In an essay titled, ‘Maybe it’s time to admit that the Statue of Liberty has never quite measured up’, Kennicott displays an image of the statue resting on someone’s fingertip. Kennicott claimed that while the statue is as familiar to some people as the American flag, it’s meaningless to immigrants and others.
In his essay, he said: “It’s a sign without significance, or worse, a symbol of hypocrisy or unfulfilled promises.”
The essay goes on to say that rather than representing freedom, the statue does exactly the opposite given America’s history of racism, sexism and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
He said: “If the statue has had any kind of stable meaning over its lifetime, it is not as a symbol of liberty, but as a symbol of the misuse of liberty — as a hollow promise, unequally distributed and limited in its application to certain groups.”
In backing up his argument, Kennicott pointed out that one of the statue’s ironies is that it depicts a woman at a time when they didn’t even have the right to vote.
US immigration restrictions
He also referenced the fact that the statue was erected in New York Harbor, partly using Chinese laborers, not long after the US had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to restrict immigration to the US from China.
Meanwhile, in a swipe at Trump’s presidency, he said: “The noble sentiments of the poem by Emma Lazarus — give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free — were all but effaced in the past four years of strident and often violent anti-immigrant sentiment.”
However, in rebuffing Kennicott’s comments that the statute was no longer relevant to black and brown people, one person said: “Last month I visited the island to see Liberty. My white family was in the minority; the majority seemed to be from all over the world.”
“Non-white families were generously represented, many in non-western attire. I heard many languages. The world still loves Liberty,” the person added.
Another said: “Kennicott’s essay is just another pathetic attempt to paint The Republic as systemically racist. Instead of cancelling and shaming history suggest you actually use your talent to contribute to a better future.”
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