Our Western civilization is approaching a great day. But a lot of work is still necessary to complete the reversal of centuries of oppression by our (mainly white) ancestors. When I was a child I used to enjoy trips to Squapan Lake without realizing how offensive the name was to our Native American neighbors. Likewise later on I spent many happy hours skiing at Squaw Mountain oblivious as to how hurtful that name was to some. Since then I’ve been re-educated. I’m a better person. Although we’ve made progress in wiping some of those racist place names from the map of Maine, still on the waiting list is the apparently durable Indian mascot of Skowhegan High School. I’m certain it was thought an honor back then, and to many even now. But for those of us who really care our patience is running thin.
I was recently delighted to learn that the Democrat Party of Connecticut, with urging from the NAACP, changed the name of its traditional Jefferson- Jackson – Bailey Dinner celebration to distance itself from those racist names. We have known for years that Jefferson had slaves, and that President Andrew Jackson ordered the deportation of the Cherokees from their home in the southeast to the dusty prairies of today’s Oklahoma, the infamous “Trail of Tears”. Others have gone further, suggesting removal of Jefferson’s image from our nickel and Jackson’s from the twenty-dollar bill. Good for them.
While on the subject of famous faces on our money it has been suggested by some persons in high places, additionally, that it’s about time that Andy Jackson’s face on the twenty be replaced by a woman’s. Harriet Tubman has been suggested. But why stop there? Since women comprise at least half of our voting population wouldn’t it be fair to have a female image on at least half of our coinage and bills? I like the idea of Abigail Adams, even though her husband John, our second president, was a conservative. She was her own person and a noble historical figure.
And it’s not just the money, mascots, place names or Confederate battle flags. Somewhere in the British embassy in Washington now rests a marble bust of (white) Winston Churchill, a gift from the UK, which used to stare across the Oval Office at the president’s desk. You may remember that Churchill was an imperialist which, of course, equates to racism and oppression of the Third World masses. And the bust stayed in the White House from the Kennedy years until President Obama ruled that this symbol of racism must go. About time.
But back to the larger question. In an enlightened society every flag and place name with a racist connection should be eliminated by law. Get ready for The Big One – George Washington, “Father of his Country”. He owned slaves. He was rich, or at least married a rich woman. And Martha Washington wasn’t allowed to vote. Do we want the rest of the world to think we honor a rich, bigoted slave owner? Think of it: the dollar bill, the quarter dollar, our nation’s capital Washington, D.C, Washington State, Washington County, Mount Washington, George Washington University, on and on. Are we serious about this racism permeating our society or not?
It will require a brave, concerted effort of those committed to social justice. Think of the objections that will be raised to swinging the wrecking ball at the proud, tall Washington Monument, the ultimate symbol of both racism and male chauvinism, which would be a laudable, great symbolic step. It’s time to write to your congress-people to press ahead with the huge and overdue clean-up of American history.
The other day I chanced to meet an old friend whom I hadn’t seen since I became a liberal activist. After our exchange of the usual pleasantries I gave him an earful of my hopes for progressives in our passion to eliminate inequality, also voicing my anguish over the present lack of momentum in our drive for multicultural diversity and sensitivity. You can imagine my distress at his reply: “Get a life.”