Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is toeing the party line when it comes to statues of historical figures. Her latest target is a Catholic saint who sacrificed his life to help lepers in Hawaii.
She believes Father Damien is a symbol of “patriarchy and white supremacist culture.”
“Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told — and virtually no one else,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “Check out Hawaii’s statue.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she would prefer to see a statue memorializing Lili’uokalani, the indigenous queen who ruled Hawaii until the kingdom was overthrown in 1893. The progressive lawmaker said she wasn’t trying to “litigate each and every individual statue,” but was instead using Damien to show “the patterns that have emerged.”
“Virtually all men, all white, and mostly both,” she said of the figures in statuary hall inside the U.S. Capitol.
Father Damien, it should be noted, is quite an important historical figure in Hawaiian history. Canonized in 2009 by then-Pope Benedict XVI, Father Damien devoted his life to caring for the spiritual and physical needs of those suffering from leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. From 1873 until his death in 1889, Father Damien ministered to those separated from their loved ones as a result of the disease.
During that time, he shared the Catholic faith with lepers. Ultimately, the priest contracted the disease himself and succumbed to it.
In mid-July, officials in one California city voted unanimously to remove a statue of Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan friar known for bringing the Christian faith into this part of North America. From 1769 until 1782, Father Serra worked alongside the Spanish military to established nine of the Franciscan missions in California.
His statues are being moved into storage after officials received “thousands” of complaints.