Benjamin Cohen Rossi


Recently, a new generation of activists has reinvigorated the debate over the symbolic public landscape of Western democracies, and in particular, public representations of historical figures whose immoral actions and beliefs are connected to the ongoing oppression of minority groups. In this paper, I consider three proposals for what we ought to do about such representations: remove them from public view, leave them unmodified, or re-contextualize them in some way. Drawing on the work of philosophers and social psychologists, I argue that there are a number of compelling moral reasons not to leave them unmodified. I argue that the decision to make these representations inaccessible to the public or recontextualize them for public consumption must be decided on a case-by-case basis, balancing several moral and pragmatic factors. Finally, I argue that in many cases, weak forms of recontextualization that do not involve altering their institutional context may be an insufficient remedy to the moral problems raised by these representations.