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Criticism Over WTC Statue Race Issues
January 12, 2002 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Criticism Over WTC Statue Race Issues -- I'm sure many of you are familiar with a recent photo featuring three firefighters raising an American flag over the WTC rubble. Now a company has been commissioned to make a statue of the photo at FDNY Brooklyn Headquarters. In the statue though, the three white men who were originally depicted in the photo have been transformed into one white man, one black man, and one Hispanic man. There has been criticism over whether it is going to far to make these changes in order to be politically correct. Others are saying the statue should be more of a symbolic representation of all ethnicities that sacrificed themselves during this tragedy. What do you think?
posted by yevge (36 comments total)

 
I don't see why we should care one way or the other... VE BELEEF EEN NOSSINK LEBOWSKI.
posted by manero at 10:13 PM on January 12, 2002


Double Post
posted by skyline at 10:19 PM on January 12, 2002


To be fair, Den Beste didn't ID it that way in his posting. So don't feel bad, yevge.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 10:21 PM on January 12, 2002


I think that re-writing history sucks. I think it sucks that much that I decided to post in both threads.
posted by RobertLoch at 12:30 AM on January 13, 2002


Yeah. Pseudo-clever descriptions that don't actually tell you what the link is to make beby Jebus cry.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 12:56 AM on January 13, 2002


``Questions about race or ethnicity played no part in the brave deeds firefighters performed on Sept. 11, and it does a disservice to the memory of the thousands lost on that day to raise such issues,'' said Bruce Ratner, president and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Cos., the management company that is paying for the statue.

I'm confused. Shouldn't this mean that they reproduce the photo accurately?
posted by SpecialK at 2:05 AM on January 13, 2002


They should throw in a Chinese, Arab and anyone else they can think while they're at it. Well, unless they're assuming you're going to mistake the Hispanic for an Asian. *shrug*

Well if ethnicity doesnt matter when you're dealing, then why doesn't more of our currency feature black/asian etc presidents?
posted by Aikido at 2:12 AM on January 13, 2002


I would personally like to see a black George Washington on the One dollar bill. Does it really matter what race George was? Why is he always portrayed as your typical "white man"?
posted by chaz at 2:29 AM on January 13, 2002


If this is all the case, maybe they shouldn't make a statue at all yet. Why rush it? How many years did it take for Lincoln's monument to be built? The statues of Iwo Jima? Vietnam Wall?

The biggest heroes in this struggle-by-proxy-by-struggle-by-proxy-by-struggle have yet to be born. Or have yet to be conceived. Yet, in order for conception to occur the parents must first survive. . .
posted by crasspastor at 2:34 AM on January 13, 2002


They've just opened up a can of worms with this political correctness bullshit. If they'd just made the statue as it appeared in the photo, no one would have complained that they didn't represent all the races of everyone (or firefighters) who died.

Even if they backed down now and said they'll make the statues non-racially specific, it's too late. The worms are all over the place.
posted by timyang at 3:06 AM on January 13, 2002


It says to me that a person's race is more important than their individual qualities. Is that the right message?
posted by dlewis at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2002


Just another piece of post 9/11 run-of-the-mill kitsch, albeit it old p.c.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:03 AM on January 13, 2002


``The symbolism is far more important than representing the actual people,'' he said. ``I think the artistic expression of diversity would supersede any concern over factual correctness.''

I love it when all you have to do to point out how silly an idea is is to repeat exactly what the opposition is saying.
posted by Mick at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2002


I didn't have a problem with them using an ethnically diverse selection of firefighters, but thought they went a bit far when they replaced the American flag with that of the United Nations.
posted by KenGoldstein at 10:50 AM on January 13, 2002


Hispanic is not an ethnicity.
posted by dydecker at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2002


"Hispanic is not an ethnicity."

Can someone explain why it is or is not?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2002


I love it when all you have to do to point out how silly an idea is is to repeat exactly what the opposition is saying. That wasn't "the opposition," it was a black firefighter.

Clearly the statue is inspired by a photograph, not an event. We remember the photograph, not the raising of the flag. I would venture that people find that image so powerful because it recalled the Iwo Jima image and other war memorials; a kind of double inversion: 1) a flag raised in recovery from an attack, not a sign of a victory, and 2) an act that pre-memorializes an inevitable site for a permanent memorial. As such, I find the opinions of white firefighters unpersuasive. The statue isn't an attempt to rewrite history, because, like the original photograph, the depiction of the flag isn't an important part of history. The important part would be the deaths of 3,000+ people from all over the world. Using the "accurate" flag-raising photograph as an icon of 9/11 and a template for a memorial is a revision of history. The all-white cast of that photograph is itself inaccurate.
posted by rschram at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2002


"The all-white cast of that photograph is itself inaccurate."

You had me right up to that point. I'm pretty sure those three guys were (and are still) white.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:04 PM on January 13, 2002


the original discussion on this topic is still going, just so you know.
posted by mdn at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2002


"History" is not a static, one dimensional event (beyond uncontestable facts), it is a constantly revised story from the first "biased" description onward to serve a particular perspective, including an artist's personal one.

But the pressure of "political correctness" corrupts language and science, and the integrity of a whole society by discouraging free speech, the speaking of factual truths as they appear to the individual. It's an enforced "mass-think" that built and destroyed the nazi as well as the communist systems.
posted by semmi at 3:39 PM on January 13, 2002


"Hispanic is not an ethnicity."

Can someone explain why it is or is not?


Hispanic is a demographic group created for census purposes, defined by having a Spanish surname.
posted by skyline at 4:03 PM on January 13, 2002


I'm pretty sure those three guys were (and are still) white.

Perhaps I didn't have you... My point was that the photograph is not a transparent slice of reality; it is as much "symbolic" as any memorial statue.
posted by rschram at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2002


Pardon my French, but I think it's all bullshit. It's already been said, but if this were really about diversity there'd have to be a whole crowd of people engraved in the statue. It's just a black person and a spanish person because they are the majority of the minority. PC crap. The picture is the picture and that's that. If it were a black man, a spanish man and a white man in the picture, then they would have a place in the statue.

I'll get really steamed when some publisher gets the bright idea to digitally modify the actual photo for the history books. That'll be the day...
posted by tomorama at 4:43 PM on January 13, 2002


Sorry, rschram, I have to part ways with you. The photograph is a slice of reality, that's why we've got people arguing over whether it's proper to alter it for the memorial.

If the photo had been staged, then we might agree. A photograph of a spontaneous act is absolutely a slice of reality, to me anyway.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2002


pho·to·graph
n.
An image, especially a positive print, recorded by a camera and reproduced on a photosensitive surface.


A visual preservation of some object or event in the form it existed in or happened as at a point in time. A solid, tangible thing.

A slice of history.

A slice of history can be interpreted by some as having symbolic meaning but it does not cease to be a slice of history... or I suppose 1 + 1 isn't always 2.
posted by tomorama at 4:56 PM on January 13, 2002


Doesn't anyone think it's the wrong thing to memorialize, anyway? Do we really want to remember that September eleventh was notable for our inability to describe it without borrowing barely appropriate metaphores from other times?

What about a firefighter weeping? Pick any race, gender, or ethnicity you please. It'll still be true, and it will have memorial value of its own.
posted by Ptrin at 4:58 PM on January 13, 2002


Hispanic is a demographic group created for census purposes, defined by having a Spanish surname

A lot of South Americans don't have Spanish surnames. Are Brazilians considered Hispanic? What about me? Don't tell me I'd be Hispanic too if I emigrated to the U.S.

Hey, we Portuguese haven't been fighting the Spaniards for almost a thousand years to protect our independence for you Yanks to label us bloody Hispanic!

That would be us like calling you all New Englanders or Britians or Anglo-Americans or something. And you at least speak the same language.

My guess is the criteria is anyone brown-skinned who sounds like Speedy Gonzales and eats spicy food.

*The nerve! *
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:06 PM on January 13, 2002


Christ, you people are too literal minded.

pho·to·graph
n.
An image, especially a positive ...


Notice that this definition does not limit the category of photography to pictures of things. That's something you slipped in: "A visual preservation of some object..." Every picture is "staged" to a certain extent. We are arguing over the photograph because it had a profound effect on people at the level of symbolism, not because it communicated something that actually happened. It did happen, but that is secondary to one's appreciation of it as meaningful and symbolic of 9/11.

A picture has surplus meaning. Famous, often-reproduced photographs, are meaningful because of what they imply or connote, not what they denote or represent literally. Otherwise, the photo of the sailor dipping his sweetheart in embrace on the street would be meaningful as a kiss, not as V-E Day. No intelligent person would ever say that photograph is meaningful because it depicts a sailor kissing a girlfriend.

As such, why would white firefighters argue over the accurate symbolic reproduction of a symbolic statement if it comes at the expense of the accurate reproduction of visual details? Because they don't like PC bullshit. Its not historical revisionism or any bugaboo like that at all.
posted by rschram at 5:22 PM on January 13, 2002


Miguel, I consider you an American-by-proxy.

You may take that as good or bad, whichever you prefer.

My skin is fairly dark and I eat spicy food all the time, but I don't think my English-Scottish-German-Polish-American Indian heritage qualifies me as Hispanic. And I only sound like Speedy Gonzales when I'm hlafway through a bottle of vodka.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:25 PM on January 13, 2002


Miguel, I consider you an American-by-proxy.

You may take that as good or bad, whichever you prefer.

My skin is fairly dark and I eat spicy food all the time, but I don't think my English-Scottish-German-Polish-American Indian heritage qualifies me as Hispanic. And I only sound like Speedy Gonzales when I'm halfway through a bottle of vodka.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:25 PM on January 13, 2002


you people are too literal minded.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

But seriously... I am a literal person. An absolutist. I would argue having an overly relative look on things is not a good thing. Too much of anything isn't good. I like being middle-of-the-road.
posted by tomorama at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2002


Sh*t. Sorry for the double post.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2002


Sorry....Middle of the road doesn't make one American. American is a state of mind at best... a crossroad of thought. Absolutist is something in a dream....something that doesn't exist. Utopia.

The discussion might have moved from the original point, but there are many cultures that inhabit this country, and only limiting to the majority of (3) races seems, well.... absolutist and racsist.
posted by Benway at 8:28 PM on January 13, 2002


Just for fun, I asked a friend who's much more mathematically gifted than I to work out what the possibilities are that the firefighters raising the flag would have been as portrayed in the statue, and as shown in the photograph. The numbers used are as stated in the original post on this issue.

His figures are as follows:

"First of all, 11344 - 321 - 341 - 20 - 9 = 10653. That's 93.9% white.

The odds of 3 whites are 10653 x 10652 x 10651 / 11344 / 11333 / 11332, which is 82.82%.

A shortcut whould be to take 93.91% cubed, which is also 82.82% (.828151 for actual vs .828165 for shortcut). The difference is replacement vs. no replacement, and in this case the replacement adjustment only matters in the 5th decimal.

The odds of exactly 1 white, 1 black and 1 hispanic:

Shortcut method: 321 x 341 x 10653 / 11344^3 x 6 = 0.48%. (The 6 is to account for the fact that the three firemen could stand in any order) "


So there's a .48% chance that the firefighters would have been one black, one white, one Hispanic, and an 82.82% chance they would have been all white.

This is not to argue the issue one way or the other, but for my own personal curiosity.

I'm glad I know people who are more proficient in math than I am, it would have taken me weeks to come to a (probably incorrect) conclusion
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:56 PM on January 13, 2002


Benway: I'm trying to decide whether or not your post is satire. I will respond none the less.

1. Who are you to tell me I'm not "American"?
2. Don't trash absolutism and imply that I'm somehow racist when you're not even sure in what context I am refferring to the word. By saying I believe in absolutism, I'm speaking about the belief in the possiblity to realize a cognition or concept of the absolute. The existance of absolute truth independent of opinion. Nothing to do with racism, and as far as I'm concerned it's absolute relativity that is both a paradox and a dream.
posted by tomorama at 10:28 PM on January 13, 2002


As far as I'm concerned, there are too many humans in this one.
posted by Zootoon at 11:23 AM on January 19, 2002


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