I have now been informed that my very whiteness and the privilege that attends that whiteness ipso facto make me a racist.
While I don’t think I hate any particular group and can assure you that I love puppies and kittens, society has spoken, and I, therefore, relent. I now would like to officially embrace my racism by publishing my Racist Manifesto:
Plank I: Blacks should not challenge white supremacy
Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse and the increase of mixed breed bastards may some day challenge the supremacy of the white man.
Plank II: The black race is inferior to the white race
You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong, I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence.
Plank III: Blacks and whites must live separately
I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
Plank IV: Intermarriage of blacks and whites should be avoided
There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together.
Those words are plagiarized
Wow, that feels really good to get the inner racist out in the open. Embracing my racism has made me a more honest person. But I have a confession to make: I plagiarized the words I used in my manifesto. Only the titles are original. The words are quotes from the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
Only judge based on totality of words and deeds
Political correctness has many forms, some of which are well-intentioned, and others, whether well-intentioned or not, are simply silly. Recent calls to have Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from Princeton University buildings is typical of the silly version. It is amazing that the supposed best and brightest of our nation’s youth (and the faculty that encourage them) could be so daft. The most cursory examination of American history and its heroes reveals that those we revere had character flaws and suffered from the cultural assumptions of their day. The list is almost inexhaustible.
We honor John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. not for their sexual dalliances but for the lofty vision of our country they both eloquently presented to the nation. Thomas Jefferson isn’t honored because of the slaves he owned but for his contribution in writing our Declaration of Independence and his work in establishing our country. Likewise, George Washington isn’t honored because he freed his slaves but rather because he led our troops to victory in the Revolutionary War and because he became our first president. We don’t honor Robert E. Lee because he fought for the South but because he was a man of honor who was respected by both sides, and because he was a great military leader.
It is unfair to judge America’s heroes and historical figures by current standards. They lived in different times with different cultural, religious and scientific assumptions. They should be studied so we can learn from their successes and failures and their strengths and weakness. But what we learn must always be tempered with the recognition of their humanity. We should honor those who achieve greatness but must realize there is no value in creating caricatures or gods. Those who are worthy to be honored (not every historical figure should be) are honored for how they stepped out of their times. It is the tremendous adversities they overcame and the revolutionary ideas they proposed that lay the foundation for what we honor.
Lincoln’s voice above cannot be claimed to be anything other than racist by any standards; however, a person’s life should be judged by the totality of his or her deeds and words. Lincoln’s demeanor and kindness toward people of all colors was evident notwithstanding his racial beliefs. Despite that cultural blindness, he still held the country together in the bloodiest war it has ever fought, freeing most of those slaves during the conflict, and officially abolishing slavery forever by passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Consider these words from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
Become the next hero
Hopefully, Lincoln’s statue and his words at his memorial in Washington, D.C., will stand for countless generations, as it affirms the concept that flawed people can achieve greatness, not only by the standards of their day, but also by the standards of time immemorial. For what is true, noble and honorable can be found in any age, if we discern wisely.
“Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”
We would be so lucky to have a Lincoln or Jefferson or Martin Luther King Jr. among us today. Instead of vilifying our true heroes in racial critiques, become one of America’s next heroes. Maybe you will be honored by future generations with statues of marble.