Earlier this week, I received the following email inquiry from a correspondent of a well-respected national publication:
“Hello Mr. Williams:
I stumbled upon your blog, and was glad I did. I’m a reporter with the _______, and I’m working on a story about states and the federal government looking harder at whether or not to rewrite statue and monument plaques to more accurately reflect history as we know it today, not as we saw it back then. The current debate in
This gentleman called me Wednesday morning and we had a very interesting conversation. Originally from Sweden, he was a little perplexed by the issue. Basically, we agreed that “contextualizing” plaques on monuments is rather silly. The place for a full explanation of the views of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century Americans is the classroom, books, and articles. To be consistent, we would have to contextualize ALL statues and monuments; including comments regarding Abraham
This is nothing more than political correctness run amok. Proponents of this type of thing either believe that most Americans are too stupid to know these things themselves, or their real purpose is to diminish the contribution that these persons made to our nation’s history. (I speak here specifically of men like Washington, Jefferson, Lee, etc. Tillman would not be included in that description as he is a rather extreme case.) The other problem with efforts like this is the fact that many (though not all) of these monuments were privately funded. The PC police at Vanderbilt found out that some courts just won't allow you to alter the property of others without compensation and/or permission. This isn't the old Soviet Union - yet.
I’ll link to the article once it’s published—next week I believe.
** Just to clarify - Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman was by all standards a despicable racist who hated African-Americans. Nonetheless, this is the proverbial slippery slope and again, to be consistent, would require the contextualizing of just about every statue in the United States. That would be a very divisive, distracting, and expensive undertaking. Perhaps a better and more positive way to address the issue would be a new memorial or monument to those who suffered from Tillman's actions.