Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) denounced the presence of a statue honoring canonized saint Father Damien, who ministered to lepers and died of the dreaded disease, as a remnant of “white supremacist culture.”
In an Instagram story Thursday, in which the congresswoman took her followers on a tour of the U.S. Capitol building, she spoke about the lack of statues memorializing minority figures and referred to the images of America’s honored historical figures from all 50 states as a nod to colonialism.
“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,” Ocasio-Cortez said, specifically pointing out Hawaii’s statue, that of Father Damien.
“It’s not Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regnant of Hawaii, who is immortalized and whose story is told,” she continued. “It is Father Damien.”
Writing for Catholic News Agency, however, Matt Hadro reported that Dallas Carter, a native Hawaiian and a catechist for the diocese of Honolulu, observed St. Damien of Molokai is a “hero” to the people of Hawaii.
Father Damien “gave his life” ministering to the leper colony at Kalaupapa peninsula, Carter told Hadro.