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How to Topple an Obelisk, Courtesy of Twitter

Just in case

Well, it’s been a weekend. Or a decade. Or a century. Whatever the time we’re designating, it’s been an exhausting and tragic period for Black Americans. All of the protesters who took to the streets over the weekend did so at huge personal risk in the midst of a pandemic—to rally for and demand change. Protests have taken on many different tones and reactions to them have ranged from terrible to hopeful to empowering. Many people are out in the streets, while others are offering support and advice on social media. One such person was Egyptologist Sarah Parcak, who had some important advice of toppling Obelisks. You know, just in case.

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Parcak’s thread was inspired by footage from Birmingham, where protesters were, let’s say, improving an obelisk that stood as a monument to the Confederacy. The protesters were not able to take down the monument, though the mayor said he would help them finish the job through official channels. But Parcak had some helpful advice in the meantime.

This all sounds doable, but the key it seems to taking down a racist monument is very much like the key to dismantling a racist society in general: teamwork, organization, action, and pressure from forces that bend towards change.

It’s all about physics and cooperation!

There’s a lot to unpack just in the history of obelisks. Many real Egyptian obelisks in non-Egyptian cities were pillaged and stolen from Egypt as a result of our old friend colonialism. Very bad. Fake Obelisks are even worse because they are both colonialist and tend to represent racist things. This thread only applies to the fake, racist obelisks, though the method described here may also prove helpful if one wanted to pull down, say, a statue of a Confederate general.

Such an obelisk is in, huh, Birmingham!

Now, there are other obelisks of note in America. There’s a large one in the nation’s capital! But, uh, please don’t use this information for the Washington Monument. For one, this method is meant for obelisks built of a single piece of stone. The Washington Monument is bricks and it’s substantially larger. Like 555 feet tall larger.

Most importantly, with the attention from this thread, Parcak wants to address racism in America and in her own field.

We all need to do our part, whether it’s committing to aiding change in our fields or giving helpful advice for when a racist monument needs to come down. Thanks to Sarah Parcak for doing both.


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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.

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