Slavery has been part of countless cultures. Slavery is hideous but was not a founding principle of the United States. The founding fathers had differing views on slavery. However, in drafting the Declaration of Independence, the founders planted the seeds that would lead to emancipation.
Watching media, one would not know that. In 2017, Angela Rye, a CNN political commentator, stated that she wanted statues of Jefferson and Washington to come down. This view has been normalized in current journalistic coverage of present protests. I understand her feelings; both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. However, history has context, and current media coverage of racism in the United States fails to cover it. Our founding fathers crafted the Declaration of Independence, including the phrase, “all men are created equal.” There is evidence that when Jefferson wrote that line, he thought that it would eventually lead to the end of slavery, despite him being a slave owner and his own conflicted history on slavery.
Peaceful protests are a right in our society. What has happened to Black Americans is awful. One cannot watch the video of a fellow human being getting slowly choked to death by police without feeling disgust and a yearning for justice. Watching the video of a Black American jogger being hunted down and executed in Georgia is one of the most horrendous things I have ever seen. These homicides deserve to be protested as the vilest form of alienation of personal freedom. However, they should not be used to launch a political attack on the very fundamentals of American democracy.
Recently, protests have turned from peaceful to violent. Mobs have moved from tearing down confederate statues to tearing down statues of our founding fathers, and even abolitionists. Representations of President Grant, who played a major role in defeating the South, and with it guaranteeing emancipation, have been destroyed. Mount Rushmore is even under attack. Students are now asking for Abraham Lincoln statues to be removed. Attacking the Fourth of July can’t be far behind. I hope the destruction of the statues of Grant, Jefferson, and Washington were done out of ignorance rather than a concerted effort to delegitimize the founding of the United States of America. Criticism has gone far beyond the destruction of statues and has morphed into a general staggering criticism of the United States as a whole.
There could be a more sinister reason for the expansion of the attack on our historical figures. Angela Rye’s 2017 comment exposes this. More recently, one critic believes the 1619 Project essentially supports the position that racism and slavery are in the very DNA of our country. This is an extremely dangerous and erroneous supposition.
DNA is inextricably tied to each and every living thing. For our country to have DNA that is inextricably tied to racism or slavery, would mean that it is impossible to separate racist ideals from the very foundational being of the United States of America. Thus, to eliminate racism, we would need to figuratively eliminate the United States of America as we know it—including its history. We have already seen this in Seattle in the formation of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. We are hearing it in the words of protestors, politicians, political commentators, and seeing it in the actions of vandals eliminating statues. I hope everyone takes a look at what is happening and educates themselves. Attacks are no longer just about police brutality, or racial disparities; to many, it is about undermining the true DNA of the United States of America.
“All men are created equal.” The most important words in one of the most important works in history. That is our DNA. It cannot be changed, no matter what party you belong to or who you want to be the next president. These words planted the seeds for freedom of all people, regardless of what existed at the time they were written. The founders deserve credit for what they created. We should teach the depths of the horrors of slavery to all of our children. Similarly, our founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution need to be celebrated and not dismissed or canceled.
Andrew Pickens is an emergency physician.
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