The polar ice caps are melting while war and poverty devastate places most of us can’t spell and wouldn’t go to if we could. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian won’t get off my TV, and Franklin Graham won’t shut up.
There is no shortage of worthwhile targets of opportunity for We The Easily Offended and/or Deeply Concerned. We rise in thundering outrage at the least provocation. Actually, we prefer the least provocations because the real problems are just too darn hard. So we meddle in the middle, raising Cain about symbols rather than getting our hands actually dirty.
Yep, UNC-Chapel Hill’s William Saunders was a prominent Ku Kluxer a century and a half ago so we demand that his name be stripped from a campus building, his valuable deeds as a historian and archivist notwithstanding.
But what about Silent Sam, the statue of a Confederate soldier on the UNC-CH campus that stands in remembrance of those students who fought for the South? There are occasional mutterings to bring him down but apparently no one has yet taken the protests too seriously, even those painting the signs and doing the marching, since most protests seem to be half-hearted, one-day, one-shot deals.
Former Gov. Charles B. Aycock, once lauded for his contributions to public education – a public school was built for each day he was in office – expressed racist views, so ECU breaks out the chisels and poof, he’s gone.
Can the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace State Historic Site be far behind? Staff members say exhibits at the Wayne County location (but, oddly, not the website) do mention his ugly racial history.
Indeed, his fiery speech-making is blamed in part for the 1898 Wilmington riots during which a mob overthrew the elected black leadership of the city, burned a black newspaper, killed dozens of innocent people and forced thousands to flee for their lives. Racist editorials in this very newspaper also must share the blame for the violence.
What the Aycock website does have is this now amusing quote from the old boy: “Equal! That is the word! On that word I plant myself and my party – the equal right of every child born on earth to have the opportunity to burgeon out all there is within him.”
Apparently he meant every white child.
The North Carolina Democratic Party stripped Aycock’s name from its annual pat-themselves-on-the-back fundraising dinner some years ago because of his white supremacist words and deeds. But then it did a curious thing: it named the fete for Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, the first a slave owner and the second likely the greatest practitioner of genocide to ever inhabit the White House.
How North Carolina can stomach having Old Hickory’s name on the highway from Wrightsville Beach to Chattanooga, Tenn., is baffling to me.
How a state so sensitive to our racial history that it is willing to erase the names of politicians who spouted racist rhetoric during the Jim Crow era can stomach having Old Hickory’s name on the highway from Wrightsville Beach to Chattanooga, Tenn., is baffling to me. While we’re sanitizing our history, how about we rip up the signs announcing that U.S. 74 through the heart of North Carolina’s Lumbee and Cherokee lands is the Andrew Jackson Highway. How’s that for a historical slap in the face?
Does no one recall the Trail of Tears?
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act that allowed the government to strip fertile Southeastern tribal lands from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole and Muskogee people in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi. Native-Americans protested the theft and forced relocation and sued the government. The Supreme Court agreed such an outrage was not legal.
Jackson – born on the border between North and South Carolina – merely thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court ruling and ordered the Army to forcibly move the Indians westward anyway.
Estimates I read say 16,543 Cherokee were forced at gunpoint to leave their homes in the mountains for Oklahoma. Of those, somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 died. Obviously, the government that caused their deaths didn’t keep a written record of its atrocities.
There is a movement to flush Andrew Jackson down the toilet of history and finally put a deserving woman’s face on the $20 bill.
And how do we remember such a heinous act? We put his mug on the $20 bill and his name on the highway that runs through the homeland of the people he sent to their death.
There have been efforts to change the accursed name of the road. Nineteen miles in Robeson County have been named the American Indian Highway (although some sections of U.S. 74 in the county still bear the Jackson moniker). Former Sen. Jesse Helms is honored in Monroe with a nice sign.
In other news, there is a movement to flush Old Hickory down the toilet of history and finally put a deserving woman’s face on the $20 bill. Names of the usual suspects have been bandied about: Susan B. Anthony (sorry that dollar coin thing didn’t work out), Sacajawea, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others.
A long shot is Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. The historical symmetry is too delicious for words, but her last name may be troubling to the good ol’ boys who still run things in Washington.
I lean toward Harriet Tubman or Eleanor Roosevelt myself, but I’m flexible: pretty much anybody except Jackson is fine with me.
Except my first-grade teacher.
I still have issues.