Lee v. Washington: It’s not that Hard
There is so much to write on the events of the last several days, but here is a quick response to the following from Trump:
“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
First: Washington is celebrated in spite of his slave-holding while Lee is celebrated precisely because he fought to defend a slave-holding regime.
Second: yes, let’s have the conversation about slave-holding by the Founders. Let’s be honest about their flaws. Let’s assess and contrast the positions of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison to those of Franklin, Hamilton, and Adams on this subject. Let’s acknowledge that, yes, white supremacy has a long history in the US (from the very beginning), and that the debate over race is a long one, and let’s further understand that the debate continues.
Let’s also understand what we celebrate when we put statues on pedestals.
Let’s also address the fact that erecting a statue is not a manifestation of the study of history, rather it is always an inherently political act. The stance of the statue, the size, the location, what inscription is used, the timing of the construction, and so forth are all dripping in politics. A statue is never simply a statue.