Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., recently claimed that a saint who helped people with leprosy in Hawaii was a colonist and white supremacist, during an Instagram video on Thursday.
In the Instagram video, Ocasio-Cortez walks through the U.S. Capitol and focuses her camera a statue of Father Damien, a 19th-century priest who aided a leper colony on the island of Molokai in Hawaii before eventually succumbing to the disease, according to the Architect of the Capitol. She suggests Father Damien’s statue symbolizes “patriarchy and white supremacist culture.”
“This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day,”Ocasio-Cortez said.
During his time with the colony, Father Damien helped to build six chapels, listened to confessions, conducted daily Mass and dug graves before he contracted the deadly disease. He was canonized by the Vatican in 2009 to become Saint Damien.
“It’s not Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regent of Hawaii, who is immortalized and whose story is told. It is Father Damien. This isn’t to litigate each and every individual statue, but to point out the patterns that have emerged among the totality of them in who we are taught to deify in our nation’s Capitol: virtually all men, all white, and mostly both,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
His statue was gifted by Hawaii to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol in 1969.
“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.
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