Jim Hartman: ‘Cancel Culture’ — purging America’s history
Astonishing proposals have come from a Washington, D.C., government committee appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to examine the names of schools, statues and parks after protests.
The committee hunted for historical figures with “key disqualifying histories, including participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities and violation of the DC Human Rights Act.”
Among the targets were the Founders of our Republic — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin — identified among “persons of concern.”
For multiple statues and monuments on federal land, the committee wants the federal government to “remove, relocate, or contextualize” them. These landmarks include the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, a federally owned Franklin statue and the statute of Christopher Columbus.
In addition, the committee seeks to remove Franklin’s name from an historic landmark school.
Other school names they want scrubbed: Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence that declared all men are created equal; Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner; Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; and James Monroe, who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and was America’s fifth president.
They also want the names of Presidents Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson removed from D.C. schools.
While Woodrow Wilson might be a candidate for a name change due to Wilson’s public support for segregation, the committee didn’t explain its case against Franklin who was late in life president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
Their report is not a thoughtful historical review. It seeks Orwellian ideological political reprogramming. It dishonors the Founders who created our Constitution.
Most of the recommendations are definite non-starters, as many of the monuments and statutes stand on federal land, outside D.C. government control. They prompted immediate fierce blowback, including from President Trump.
What is recommended in Washington, D.C., is a thorough, total, radical rewriting of American history.
In very “progressive” Berkeley, California, icons of American history have already been purged as names for public schools.
Berkeley is a political and cultural harbinger — what starts there spreads.
Fifty years ago, Berkeley schools were named for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, James Garfield and Joseph LeConte. Over time, all these names of white male historical figures have been expunged.
They have been replaced by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Sylvia Mendez.
Last June, the Berkeley school board unanimously “unnamed” both Washington and Jefferson elementary schools, commemorating the first and third U.S. presidents. Replacement school names are yet to be determined. In 2005, an earlier effort by racial justice activists to rename Jefferson failed.
In 2018, these activists succeeded in “ridding” the name of Joseph LeConte from a Berkeley elementary school.
LeConte was a celebrated UC Berkeley professor — a physician and geologist — and a renowned conservationist who co-founded the Sierra Club. LeConte critics contend his writings were “racist.”
LeConte school got renamed the Sylvia Mendez elementary school , honoring a current Hispanic California school integration advocate.
Previously, James Garfield Jr. High School was renamed for Martin Luther King shortly after his 1968 assassination.
Abraham Lincoln elementary became Malcolm X in the 1970s. Christopher Columbus elementary was renamed for Rosa Parks in 2000. Benjamin Franklin elementary closed in 2002.
John Muir elementary is presently the only public school in Berkeley named for a white male American historical figure.
Muir, the Sierra Club’s iconic founder and “father of the national parks,” is now under attack for “racism” by the Sierra Club’s current executive director. Will Berkeley school officials “unname” Muir elementary school?
If we expunge from their place of honor all the historical figures who held views that were common in their time — including the nation’s Founders — where will it stop?
This ‘Cancel Culture’ is a purging of America’s history.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. Email email@example.com