A group of protesters meets in a dark alley near a county courthouse. One thing is on their mind: They’re gonna topple some stuff. All of it is white supremacist patriarchal cack. They’ve got some rope. They’ve got some spray paint. You’re going to feel some pain, institutional racism.
The leader of this pack is about to lead his charges into battle. He has to give one piece of advice before he lets the hounds of the black bloc loose. What’s the final piece of advice he should give the assembled crowd looking up at him?
Here’s what I would say: If you don’t know what it is, don’t topple it.
This is because I’m pretty sure the left has a generally miserable track record figuring out what deserves to come crashing to the ground.
It’s somewhat fun for me watching apologists for the mob trying to come up with why the individual or concept being honored by a statue makes it deserving of being thrown on the ash-heap of history. (“Hey, Lady Justice is a white heteronormative concept of how the justice system works. She’s clearly copaganda. That statue had it coming.”)
If you’re a leftist organizer, I imagine, that kind of protest is a bit more vexing.
Take the example of Frederick Douglass — arguably the most resonant black voice in American history, a Republican who can still be embraced by the left.
A statue of Douglass was taken from its pedestal in a Rochester, New York, park to a fence near the Genesee River gorge sometime between July 4 and 5 — the anniversary of Douglass’ famous “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech.
As an article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle noted, there is “a deluge of social media opinions Sunday about possible perpetrators.”
The possible perpetrators the writers chose to speculate about involved the theory that the statue-toppling was the handiwork of racists.
“It’s particularly painful that it happened at this time,” said Carvin Eison, who worked to bring the statues to the upstate New York city where Douglass lived for much of his life.
The statue was in Maplewood Park, where he helped slaves escape along the Underground Railroad along with Harriet Tubman and others.
A Frederick Douglas statue in Maplewood Park was removed from its base overnight. pic.twitter.com/J43hqxuHTT
— Atyia Collins (@Atyia_Collins) July 5, 2020
“What comes from this? What good is this? Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over Confederate monuments right now? Very disappointing, it’s beyond disappointing,” he told WROC-TV.
“I feel to put a monument back here immediately so whoever did this knows that we are not going to be deterred from what our objective is — and our objective is to continually celebrate Frederick Douglass,” he added.
“They can topple over this monument, they could go topple over all of them – this monument will still stand because the ideas behind it are bigger than the monument.”
Notice they only have one side of this deluge of opinion. There’s also the possibility that the vandalism is just random, perhaps inspired by statue-toppling. The statue has previously been vandalized by some besotted college kids.
There’s one possibility that remains unmentioned but which lurks in the background: Maybe the protesters got it wrong.
Maybe the man who gave one of the most well-known speeches in American history didn’t resonate with some protesters. They hadn’t heard bits of the speech which are currently being passed around left-leaning social media as a counterweight to Independence Day:
Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all. ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/YCD2SYlgv4
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 4, 2020
Yes, there were plenty of people who didn’t quite get the point, and it’s unsurprising Colin Kaepernick is one of them. However, there’s a huge possibility they didn’t know this was a famous abolitionist who settled in Rochester in the 1840s after escaping slavery.
There is precedent. It’s not just statues dedicated to Washington and Lincoln that are being targeted by the mob.
In Wisconsin, the statue of an abolitionist colonel in the Union Army who died fighting to end slavery in the Civil War was destroyed at the state capitol in Madison, along with a statue which represented an anthropomorphized version of Wisconsin’s state motto, “Forward.”
Col. Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who died at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, had his statue torn down last month.
“The State has sent no braver soldier, and no truer patriot to aid in this mighty struggle for national unity, than Hans Christian Heg,” the Wisconsin State Journal wrote when reporting his death.
“The valorous blood of the old Vikings ran in his veins, united with the gentler virtues of a Christian and a gentlemen.”
— Lance Veeser (@lanceveeser) June 24, 2020
So, was this a Heg? It’s certainly about as dispiriting — although in a completely different direction — than if Douglass’ statue was torn down by racists.
As you can bet, there was plenty of it on both sides. In an environment where anything put up by the establishment is considered a capitulation to the establishment, though, I can see Douglass’ statue getting toppled.
In a world where you can topple the statues of abolitionists, you can topple one representing the statue of the most famous abolitionists.
All history is evil, after all, and surely Douglass would fall short of today’s woke liberals, who are the only moral people this planet has ever seen.
He was a Republican, after all. That’s enough to get you canceled these days.
Who toppled the statue? I suppose we may never know. It’s sad to say, but in a better universe, I’d bet on the racists or the drunk college kids.
Evil and privileged mischief have been around for quite some time. Stupidity like the kind that induces one to tear down abolitionist statues in order to protest structural racism is a fairly new wrinkle in our culture.
The very fact I have to ask this question, however, indicates how wrong our culture has gone and how deep the sickness goes.
If it ends up being ignorance — which certainly seems to be a leading possibility — protesters need someone who can point out once and for all the statues which it would behoove them not to topple.
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