Reading the letter from Albany County Legislators Frank Mauriello and Jeff Perlee made me both discouraged and angry. Comparing Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s decision to remove the statue of Philip Schuyler to the destruction of artifacts, past and present, is highly divisive rhetoric that, even with my low expectations of our political leaders, somehow still manages to shock me. If Mr. Mauriello and Mr. Perlee are only able to throw gasoline on fires then I wish they would remove themselves from public service.
The concern by Mr. Mauriello and Mr. Perlee that “officials across the nation are attempting to systematically erase and rewrite our shared history” confounds me. For centuries “self-righteous, cowering politicians,” as well as others with power, have worked to erase history when it did not fit into their cultural narrative or desire to remain in power. Those “leaders” not only worked to avoid acknowledging contributions from people who did not match their race or gender, they systematically restricted groups of people from being able to participate in government and achieve justice. I am not sure who Mr. Mauriello and Mr. Perlee are referring to with the line “our shared history” but I don’t see the “our” being a fully inclusive group or a group I want to be associated with.
I applaud Mayor Sheehan’s decision to move (not destroy) the statue so it can be placed in a setting where appropriate context about Schuyler can be made available. I see this as taking a step back to get a better perspective, something that we all need to do. By standing on uneven ground for so long, our minds may be tricked into believing that the playing field is level. Mr. Mauriello and Mr. Perlee may not like the shifting ground but I would hope that, especially being community leaders, they would work harder to see a larger picture.