The U.S. Congress just voted to have all statutes of Confederate statues removed from the United States Capitol. Every state in the Union can have two statues of a person from their state to be placed in honor inside the capitol building. When Democrats were in control of Congress, while the first Black President of the United States served for eight years, there was no resounding outrage to have these monuments removed. One might conclude that would have been the most obvious time to make a change, but it was not an issue. There was not a coalition to make it happen.
States like Florida did not need the Federal government to mandate this rule change. Instead, they led on their own. In 2019, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed historic legislation to replace the statute of General Edmund Kirby Smith with Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. This was a point of pride in the state, especially considering the Florida Historically Black College named after her. “Florida is proud to commemorate the 144th anniversary of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s birthday by sending our state’s formal request to place her statue in National Statuary Hall, making her the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue,” said Governor DeSantis.
What happens if there is a statue of a Black person erected and they are of mixed heritage like President Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris? What if one side of their family tree owned slaves, or was a member of the KKK, or was an ardent segregationist? Do we then tear down that statue?
President Joe Biden has a history of saying overtly racist things about minorities and even writing policies like his 1994 Crime Bill, which led to the direct mass incarceration of Black men and women. That bill helped destroy Black families, Black generational wealth, and Black communities. In the United States Senate, there is a tradition where the Vice President receives a bust displayed inside the U.S. Capitol honoring their service as the President of the Senate. Should Joe Biden not have a statue because of his well-documented bigotry?
You hear the cries to tear down all the monuments of any person that either said something they did not like, owned slaves, or was not woke enough 100 years ago based on today’s standards. Schools get renamed, textbooks get re-written, and monuments come down because of the viewpoints of the group with the most media and political influence. The question becomes: where does it end?
It is not just about monuments. This so-called “woke” culture led a school district in New Jersey to take away all the names of the holidays the students could celebrate at school. Apparently, Christmas, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day are way too offensive in 2021. The school board received such backlash from parents that they rightfully were forced to vote to undo their ignorant decision. The school board president apologized by saying, ” I can assure you that I did not intend, and I do not believe that any member of this board intended to insult or disrespect the ancestry or heritage of an Italian American or anyone else. I would also like to apologize to those who believe that this board is disrespected or disregarded.”
Yes, their woke vote was actually disrespectful and caused more harm than good.
A report by the National Archives went as far as to suggest that highlighting Thomas Jefferson in a positive way was bad because he was White and wealthy. The report demanded trigger warnings for people viewing images of our Founding Fathers and founding documents inside the rotunda. Again, the left is overreaching and trying to editorialize history through a woke progressive lens. This nonsense further divides the nation.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice — who was born and raised in the segregated South — has a unique perspective on this issue given her upbringing. Dr. Rice said, “I’m a firm believer in ‘keep your history before you.’ And so I don’t actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners. “I want us to have to look at the names and recognize what they did, and be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to have a sense of their own history… “That Constitution originally counted my ancestors as three-fifths of a man,” she said. “In 1952 my father had trouble registering to vote in Birmingham, Alabama. And then, in 2005, I stood in the Ben Franklin Room … I took an oath of office to that same Constitution, and it was administered by a Jewish woman Supreme Court Justice. That’s the story of America.”
Mistakes will be made, and there will be overreach because the left is operating devoid of context, history, and a full understanding of the times. Past generations did not have the same access to education, opportunity, diverse experiences, and growth that we do. We should be more concerned with ignorant bigoted statements made today rather than trying to re-write — and in some cases totally erase — our history.
Paris Dennard is the National Spokesperson and Director of Black Media Affairs for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Follow him on Twitter: @PARISDENNARD.