Over the Thanksgiving weekend, vandals desecrated the Abraham Lincoln statue in Chicago with red paint, writing “colonizer” and “land back” on it. This act of vandalism is disappointing but not surprising. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to tear down statues of historical figures who owned slаves or were otherwise complicit in America’s history of rаcism and oppression.
While Abraham Lincoln is often lauded as “the great emancipator,” it’s important to remember that his views on rаce were far from progressive. He once said, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and blаck rаces.”
The act of vandalizing public property is always regrettable. But when that public property is a statue of someone like Abraham Lincoln, it’s doubly so. Yes, Lincoln was flawed—he was a man of his times, and his views on rаce were far from ideal. But he was also one of the most consequential presidents in American history. He led the country through its darkest hour—the Civil War—and helped to preserve the Union. He also oversaw the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slаvery.
To be sure, there are valid arguments for removing statues of historical figures who owned slаves or were complicit in America’s history of rаcism and oppression. But it’s important to remember that history is complex; no one is entirely good or entirely bad. To try to erase someone from history because they don’t meet our modern standards is short-sighted and counterproductive. We should learn from our history—both the good and the bad—so that we can do better in the future.
We should learn from our history—both the good and the bad—so that we can do better in the future.