Earlier this week, a 10-foot bronze statue of former Dearborn, Michigan, mayor Orville Hubbard was removed from its perch in front of the old city hall. The statue was the subject of fierce debate this summer in the days after the Confederate flag became a flashpoint in the racially-motivated Charleston massacre. It will be relocated to the Dearborn Historical Museum.
In June, Deadline Detroit’s Bill McGraw wrote about the statue and the man whose likeness it portrays:
The bronze statue, that shows Hubbard waving and smiling, is not as freighted as the flag that symbolizes the rebellion to preserve slavery. But it qualifies as a “reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation,” in Obama’s words, because Hubbard was one of the most notorious segregationists outside the South during the civil rights era.
Orville Hubbard was our George Wallace, our Orval Faubus, our Strom Thurmond. While his memory is fading 33 years after his death, Hubbard’s words and actions contributed much toward creating the difficult racial climate that has existed in metro Detroit for many years. In 1969, The New York Times wrote that “Hubbard’s Dearborn is a symbol of the deep-seated racism of the North.”
Hubbard told The Times: “Goddammit. I don’t hate niggers. Christ, I don’t even dislike them. But if whites don’t want to live with niggers, they sure as hell don’t have to. Dammit, this is a free country. This is America.”
He added: “I favor segregation. Because, if you favor integration, you first have kids going to school together, then the next thing you know, they’re grab-assing around, then they’re getting married and having half-breed kids. Then you wind up with a mongrel race. And from what I know of history, that’s the end of civilization.”
McGraw’s piece renewed conversation about Hubbard and led the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to speak out on the statue as well. The population of Dearborn, part of metropolitan Detroit, is 42 percent Arab-American. In an op-ed published in the Detroit Free Times, ADC Michigan regional office director Fatina Abdrabboh wrote:
The danger of normalizing such symbols is that by tolerating racism we run the risk of enabling dominant culture to embed and justify deep inequalities in our society. Admittedly, removing Hubbard’s statue will not alter the course or significantly change the life of any individual in Dearborn or Detroit. However, at a time when our nation is struggling to break free from the burdens of racism, dismantling this relic is an opportunity for this great city to formally acknowledge and disavow its racist past. It also lays the foundation for a future where diversity and tolerance are embraced.
The ADC also sent a letter to the Dearborn city council urging the body to remove the statue.
City officials say the statue needed to be moved anyway because, last year, they sold the land to a company that will develop artist lofts. Over the summer, the Dearborn Historical Commission voted unanimously to move it to the museum. When it makes the transition, it will have a new sign that mentions Hubbard’s segregationist views.
(H/t Detroit Free Press)