There’s a statue of a man on public display in a major American city. He was a successful white man who owned slaves. He raped one of his teen slaves repeatedly and she bore his children. He committed treason when he rebelled and fought against the country where he grew up.
So is anyone demanding this statue be removed? Not that I’ve heard of. The man is Thomas Jefferson, founding father, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the U.S.
So why is the statue of a rapist slave owner, the centerpiece of a national monument in Washington, D.C. acceptable while the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville is not?
Honestly, I don’t know if the statue should stay or go. I can understand both sides of the issue. I understand why it is offensive to some people to see a statue of a man who fought for enslavement of their ancestors. But I also understand why people see the statue of Lee and other southern generals as a part of our history and culture, the same way Andrew Jackson, a brutal soldier who practiced genocide, is remembered. Have there been any calls for his portrait to be pulled from U.S. currency or off the walls of the White House and other government buildings? Nope.
Think about your own life, about something from your past that you desperately regret that you did. You’d like to go back and undo it, but you can’t. You’re stuck with it, ashamed of it, don’t like to think about it. Overall, you’re probably a good person who made a bad mistake. What you can do is learn from it and not make that mistake again. That’s the way it is with our country too.
You’ve heard of slippery slopes? This issue is the monster mountain of all slippery slopes. Just for example, there was once a country that practiced slavery from its founding until it was forced to free its slaves by use of military force. What was this evil country? No, not the CSA. I’m talking about Texas. But while the Confederacy is so evil, statues of its leaders are being taken down, the statues of leaders of the slave country of Texas are revered. This makes no sense to me.
It gets worse. The United States of America was founded as a slave nation. Slaves were quantified in the U.S. Constitution as 3/5 of a human being. Think about it. The United States was a slave nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. George Washington, the father of the country, owned slaves.
You know who else practiced slavery? Every country that’s been around a few hundred years. Slavery used to be an acceptable situation. The Bible endorses it. So I guess we have to condemn most of the countries on earth for their slave nation past. And if you can’t fly the Confederate flag because it was a slave nation, you also shouldn’t fly the flag of the U.S., Texas or most of the countries on earth.
You know, I don’t much care if the statues stay or go. It’s not that important to me. I wasn’t planning any statue tours anyway. I wouldn’t mind if they stayed, I wouldn’t miss them if they’re gone.
But I do think we need to all calm down and realize you can’t erase our racist past. And we need to realize that nearly all countries have a racist past, practiced slavery, bigotry, and used violence and even genocide against people of color. If we can balance the evil side of Jefferson, Jackson and Sam Houston against all the good they did, maybe the anger over the southern generals is overblown.
As a country, the problem is that our racist past is still alive. That racists, neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists are turning violent on our streets is an alarming warning that the thinking that denigrated some people to lower status in our history is alive and kicking, and punching, and ramming people with a car.
Why don’t we just accept that our country has a racist history, and try to make that a thing of the past? We can’t change what happened, getting rid of statues is slim comfort, and the only thing we can do now is try to stop racism and prejudice of all kinds in the present. Let’s not forget the lessons of our slave nation past so we can have a better future for all our people.