Many people have called for the removal and replacement of Confederate statues in recent years — and a new proposal in Bradenton, Florida, may be one of the weirdest.
Indeed, a Change.org petition calls for a Confederate monument in the Florida town to be replaced with a statue of the world’s oldest manatee, Snooty.
In the description, uploaded on Sunday, the petition author wrote:
“Snooty the Manatee has been a symbol of Bradenton, FL for almost 70 years. He suddenly passed away on July 23rd 2017 and was the oldest living Manatee on record in the world. Subsequently, there is a Confederate memorial statue that stands directly in front of the old courthouse just blocks away from the aquarium where Snooty resided. To honor Snooty’s legacy as a positive icon in Bradenton, I propose that the negative symbol of racism and oppression that is the Confederate monument be relocated and replaced with a statue of Snooty the Manatee.”
The lifelong Bradenton resident snagged a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest manatee, and over the course of his 69-year life became a Bradenton icon. Tragically, that life ended earlier this week when the manatee became caught in a latch door and drowned.
While a manatee statue may seem absurd, it’s important to note that if the petition were to pass the statue would stand before the aptly-named Manatee County Historic Courthouse, and thus replace a monument to Confederate icons Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The Daughters of the Confederacy donated that statue in 1924.
This petition marks just the latest in a series of conversations about how to highlight the history of the antebellum South, if at all: many monuments to Confederate generals and politicians are being removed across the South.
Like the Manatee County Historic Courthouse monument, many of these statues went up decades after the end of the Civil War. Those in favor of removing them, like Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, often argue that these statues “hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.”
Those opposed claim that to remove them is to erase an essential piece of Southern history, and an act of disrespect to their forbearers.
Incidentally, this may be why Bradenton residents can skip the debate: what’s more important to Manatee County history than the oldest manatee itself?
Next, read more about the legacy of the Confederacy with this article on one of the last surviving daughters of a Confederate soldier. Then, learn about someone who took statue removal into their own hands and rammed his car into a Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas.