In Birmingham, AL, demonstrators took down a statue of Confederate captain Charles Linn. A Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded and removed in Boston. In England, a statue of a 17th-century slave trader was thrown into Bristol Harbor. All around the world, statues have been crumbling (cue Sugar Ray's "Fly"). Why? Because they represent legacies of racism, oppression, and violence. And it's not just statues of problematic white guys that are being reconsidered; buildings, landmarks, and parks are, too. The University of Oregon has announced it will rename a building named after racist legislator Matthew Deady, a slew of geologic features in Colorado are on the renaming block (including the disturbingly named Chinaman Gulch), and the citizens of Nevada are trying to rename a neighborhood park named after a former US senator who believed racial diversity was harmful to society (wrong, you were). If you're in this fight to dismantle white supremacy, then removing them is a no-brainer. However, it seems we've missed a big one: New York has a state park named after Donald J. Trump.
"We should not be subjected to look at monuments and tributes of our oppressors," Black Lives Matter Greater NY Chairman Hawk Newsome told POPSUGAR. "These people fought to keep us in chains and committed horrific acts against others. Why are we celebrating them?"
I would call Trump the final boss of racist historical figures, but he might like that too much. But I will say that he is an unequivocal racist who currently poses more of a threat than any other historical before him, because he is actively spewing racist rhetoric, passing racist legislation, and promoting racist ideology that empowers, emboldens, and practically weaponizes countless Americans who share his racist views.
So why is there a state park named after him?
(Just wanted to point out that in 2013, Trump was actively engaging with Twitter users with 23 followers.)
In 2006, Trump, then a corrupt businessman and reality TV mainstay, donated a swath of undeveloped land to New York after plans to build a golf course were derailed by environmental regulations. Since then, the 435-acre "public park" (or some might say "public tax write-off"), which straddles Westchester and Putnam counties, has been languishing and, according to The New York Times, "exudes a feeling of decay and abandonment."
At this point, you're probably wondering how we can fix this. Good news: there's a change.org petition to remove his name from the land. But that's not all; petition signatures could translate into passing the proposed legislation to rename the park. With enough support, Governor Cuomo could even be compelled to issue an executive order to change the name.
Tara Eisenberg, lifelong New Yorker and public space enthusiast, started the petition to point out that the park is a massive oversight in our collective mission to rid the world of symbols of hate. "Donald J Trump does not represent the values of New Yorkers," she told POPSUGAR. "Not only is Trump famously racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic"—you forgot autocratic and treasonous—"but he has been particularly disparaging to New York State and City, recently calling it 'a hellhole.' Who wants to hang out in a park that reminds them of someone who said that?"
Besides that, Eisenberg points out, it's illegal to use public land to advertise an active political campaign. "Sitting presidents (or any living people, for that matter) don't have parks named after themselves, at least not in free countries."
Photo courtesy Tara Eisenberg.
Eisenberg's not alone. Legislation to rename the park was introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Nily Rozic last year.
"Having a park named after you is an honor Donald Trump doesn't deserve. It's time for New York to take a stand against his racism and divisiveness by renaming this state park as well as providing the resources to transform this open space from a desolate afterthought to a real asset to the New York State Park system. I'm looking forward to working with Assembly Member Rozic, Senator Harckham, and the rest of my colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill," Senator Hoylman said in a statement to POPSUGAR.
Luckily, the bill already has the support of several other legislators. Those include assemblymember Harvey Epstein, who is cosponsoring it in the State Assembly. "Our state's natural beauty should not be marred by the bigotry espoused by Donald Trump, and I am proud to support efforts to remove his name from our state park in Westchester and Putnam counties. In pursuit of social justice we must attack the systems and structures that perpetuate racism as well as the symbols that reinforce it."
Likewise, New York State Senator Liz Krueger, a cosponsor of the Senate bill, says, "Donald Trump has worked very hard to make his name synonymous with racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and hate and intolerance of every stripe. These are not New York values, and they are the antithesis of the welcoming message that our state parks should be sending. It's time to rename this park after someone actually worthy of the honor."
So, who would be worthy of representing this public green space? Proposed candidates have included Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was murdered when a driver intentionally hit her with his car at a counterprotest to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 (remember when Trump called those white supremacists "very fine people"?), folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who was known for his work protecting the Hudson River region, and Summer H. Lark, a Black journalist, Brooklyn District Attorney, and civil rights leader with strong ties to Putnam County. Or perhaps the selection could be democratized through a crowdsource campaign.
At the end of the day, the number of people more deserving of celebration over Trump is too high to count. He does not leave big shoes to fill. In fact, you could name the park after my deceased cat, Humba, and throngs of people would rejoice.
When I asked Eisenberg what Trump's name represents for her, she responded, "Let's just say I'd like to grab Trump by the park."
Head to getoffmypark.com to show your support and learn more about the effort.