'That's my plan, to continue to go forward, being a person who stands up for what's right.'
Lifelong Arizona resident Rebecca Olsen McHood has had enough of her state's Confederate monuments and the bigotry they represent. So she did something about it.
In the wake of recent violent demonstrations over the monuments in other states, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis but refuses to remove Confederate monuments from public lands despite the fact that Arizona became a state 47 years after the Civil War.
"It’s important that people know our history," he told the press Aug. 14. "I don’t think we should try to hide our history."
McHood was outraged by President Donald Trump's Aug. 15 remarks about the violence in Charlottesville and Ducey's apathy. But she didn't let her anger paralyze her.
"When our president is coming out in support of Nazis and in support of white supremacists and when our local government is advancing these racist policies, this is a good time to say, 'Hold up here. What do you really stand for,'" she says.
Donald Trump photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. Gov. Doug Ducey photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg.
Together with her friend Cynthia Lehigh, McHood turned one of Arizona's monuments into a larger-than-life participation trophy.
McHood crafted two paper banners that wouldn't look out of place at a child's birthday party, then Lehigh joined her for a trip from their homes in Gilbert, Arizona, to the state capital grounds in Phoenix on the evening of Aug. 15. Given all of the recent controversy and violent demonstrations to protect Confederate monuments, she worried she'd have to deal with crowds.
Instead, the structure was guarded by a single police officer, who watched as Lehigh and McHood started to tie their banners, which read "You lost, get over it," and "2nd place participant" to the structure, a humorous take on the popular participation trophy meme.
Photo by Cynthia Lehigh, used with permission.
The police officer asked the pair not to attach anything, so they set them down and took pictures, before heading over to a nearby rally in support of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
"I wondered if the officer would grab all the stuff and throw it in the trash," she says. "He left it there, and it was still there when we left."
Photo by Rebecca Olsen McHood, used with permission.
While McHood is not the first activist to target a Confederate monument, some may be surprised to learn she is white and a lifelong Republican.
However, McHood did not support Trump and is appalled by the bigotry and vitriol she's seeing as a result of his election. She thought about changing her party after the election but decided to stick it out after meeting some fellow Republicans while collecting signatures this summer in support of the state's public school system.
"Having been out and talking to those people and gathering those signatures, I know that there are good people in the Republican Party ... who care about equality, who care about education, who care about fiscal responsibility, who care that their neighbors have food to eat, and who care about social safety nets," she says.
Photo via Rebecca Olsen McHood.
As a white woman and Republican, McHood knows she has access other people may not, so she makes an effort to use her privilege for good.
McHood says she tries to use her access and position of relative safety to lift up voices that often go unheard.
"I know that I as a white, former Mormon, smiley, confident person, I just automatically have better access to government leaders and I have more safety than they have," she says. "Often, leaders will set meetings with me, and I will bring my friends who are in black- and brown-skinned bodies with me ... and I will pass the mic."
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Because we are all responsible for dismantling white supremacy.
This is not a left or right issue. White supremacy and white nationalism are poisons that infect and take hold in our communities, governments, and systems. Breaking that down, examining our bitter history, and making it right will take all of us, regardless of our identities or where we fall on the political spectrum.
It's a monumental task, but we're the ones we've been waiting for.
Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.