Some behavioral psychologists argue the best cure for overcoming irrational fears is to face them. So, in the interest of healing the nation, people should defy their emotional chains, rise up, and exclaim, “I’m not afraid of a stinkin’ statue.”
Though dead and gone, Robert E. Lee is public enemy number one, now ahead of arch villain Thomas Jefferson. Institutions of higher learning teach that Jefferson held and romanced slaves. While the latter is suspect, and much has been published in Jefferson’s own words about his problems with slavery; he also likely had one of the greatest minds ever. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and was an enlightened advocate for liberty. Sure, Hamilton portrays him as slow and old-fashioned compared to the hero who advocated for a strong, centralized government and the creation of what became the Fed.
Now, revisionists are going so far as to say the American experiment in personal liberty was but a pro-slavery ruse of the evil Jefferson – to perpetuate atrocity against the wishes of King George III, who was described by contemporaries as a mentally unstable tyrant. To trash the concept of freedom because it was launched imperfectly is to express a preference for America’s antecedent monarchy. If rule by a whimsical madman is so desirable, then progressives should stop trying to oust Trump on those grounds. In the real world, contradiction indicates at least one assumption is erroneous.
One constructive course of action would be to quit judging people and throwing the baby out with the bath water. Whenever it is discovered that an insightful, humanitarian genius was also a sinner, or didn’t know everything perfectly, we are told to ditch all his ideas. Catechisms teach to judge actions, not people. Race-baiting opinion leaders slander Jefferson as a human trafficker to imply a therefore clause that liberty and independence, which he advanced, are racist. By inference, we would also demonize horticulture, architecture, arts and letters, invention and all else Jefferson promoted.
Slavery is evil. The fact doesn’t change no matter what scandals we uncover or think we uncover as we futilely write and rewrite historiographies. We follow principles, not personalities.
But if you spend your life railing against all forms of tyranny, as Jefferson did, progressives will call you racist. Racism is now defined as the embracing of conservative causes, and this is dangerous. For example, saying the federal government shouldn’t be advertising for people to sign up for food stamps has been called racist. Allegations of racism have been lodged against people opposing Obamacare, supporting voter ID requirements, or arguing against rent controls. Progressive bullies have found a condemnation that hurts so deeply and universally, it can close down conversations about meaningful reform.
Traditional conservatives want everybody to have rich opportunities to stretch and grow through learning and effort. Exerting some personal ingenuity and taking some calculated risks to make a living for your family, instead of letting the abstraction known as the federal government stunt your growth by doing for you what you can do yourself, is good for the soul.
Not so, says the left. “Racist!” they cry. Even though nobody said anything about skin color, the left is quick to assume anybody promulgating personal growth over big-government dependency is intentionally trying to starve people of color. Borrowing from comedian Redd Foxx, “Who’s the racist, racist?”
As if that isn’t bad enough, it is claimed that everybody is racist, and there is no cure. That is nonsense. Any Christian will tell you Jesus saves. He will also tell you that Jesus commands us to be forgiving, because, compared to God, we’re all fools bumbling blind. Getting back to personal responsibility, it would be crazy to try today’s children for crimes their great-great-grandparents committed. It’s like blaming the stars or a statue, or saying, “The devil made me do it.” People are viewing themselves as the stone, to be hewn and acted upon, instead of exercising that which makes them human and using their mind and strength for good.
Another link in the chains holding humanity in a state of victimhood is groupthink. People are not encouraged to use their own senses to collect data, and their own brains to analyze it. Opinion leaders tell us we are groups, white and black. Our thoughts are not in our minds, but wafting somewhere in the aether between us. That way, they can say, “He offended our people!” to yank our chains and create unrest. Instead of viewing each human as made in the image of God and given a divine spark, rabble-rousers see us as excitable puppets who can trash and burn cities at their command. Why use that college education to collaborate on the next great thing when you can reduce villages to rubble?
While we can’t invent time machines to go back and stop all human subjugation, it is fair to say, statistically, that descendants of American slaves still find it harder to get ahead than whites. UNC Asheville professor Dwight Mullen has attained local celebrity status for his “State of Black Asheville” report. Mullen cites abysmal statistics for people of color in areas like still births, academic achievement, graduation, and entrepreneurship. Aren’t these numbers indicative of white supremacists holding down a whole race of people?
Probably not; those outcomes would probably be more closely correlated to poverty than skin color. Still, the question should be asked why so many people of color remain in poverty. There is no silver-bullet cure, but some proposed reforms include addressing fractured families and government welfare programs with perverse incentives. Regardless, these problems show we all have humongous opportunities for creative compassion.
And so Tuesday’s meeting of Asheville City Council opened with a “Resolution Condemning the Actions of White Supremacists and Racial Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.” It spoke against violence, harm, anger, hatred, bigotry, exclusion, and intimidation. Insightfully, the resolution said the city “stands with the residents of Charlottesville, Virginia and across the country, united against those who seek to divide us.” Everybody has heard of divide and conquer, but kids today don’t hear so much about how Hitler’s master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, instigated brawls and other forms of violence to bring media attention to Nazism; the takeaway being: Children, don’t allow yourselves to be tools of the power structure.
The resolution further states, “The Asheville City Council does hereby reject the message of all hate groups; renounce racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, the KKK, neo-Nazis, domestic terrorism and hatred; declare that those who want to spread hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the City of Asheville; and commit to ensuring that Asheville remains a place of love and compassion, where hate is not, and never will be, welcome.”
Mayor Esther Manheimer said the city is looking into which monuments need to come down. She clarified, “City council will ask our Governance Committee, which is a subcommittee of our city council, to look at the current state of the laws that relate to monuments and formulate a plan for public engagement around monuments that exist here in Asheville. We will have opportunities for people to speak to the HRC and/or the African-American Heritage Commission, …”
Councilor Cecil Bothwell said the resolution was a nice gesture with soft words that kicked the can down the road in a web of bureaucracy. The city, he argued, should be more courageous and remove any symbols of hatred and intimidation without delay. Bothwell said he couldn’t help but remember the 2002 FBI report that named domestic terrorism from right-wing groups as the worst threat to the country.
While history has forgotten, many statues across the country were erected to celebrate some form of white supremacy. Councilor Keith Young was of the opinion certain Confederate monuments in Asheville were indeed installed with malevolent intent.
Councilor Julie Mayfield, who had conferred with legal counsel, alluded to adverse ramifications as she said removing statues was not straightforward. Manheimer added when the law forbidding the removal of any monument in the state was moving through the legislature in 2015, an amendment to allow cities and counties leeway was defeated, making the restrictions on the city’s powers very clear.
Citizen Margaret Mays said, since the state does not allow the city to remove statues; it should, instead of erasing history, place a plaque by each, explaining “what is the problem with it.” Nicole Townsend, who was one of four who recently claimed responsibility for defacing the Vance Monument, also spoke.
To help ease tensions, the city has created a new position, the Equity and Inclusion Manager. Kimberlee Archie has been working since July 31, but she was formally introduced to the public Tuesday. Archie said she has been getting acquainted with the city’s history and current plans, and she is developing specific plans, examining funding, policy, procedures, services, and programs. She is currently assembling a core team to create equity tools for city leadership. Future activities include gathering data to identify what disparities exist in Asheville and engaging the community to better understand how it defines equity. That much, she said, she will accomplish, “in the next bit of time.”