Why ALL of Frederick has a say in who we choose to honor.
The Frederick News Post recently published an article about the removal of two busts in Frederick County:
On a gloomy Saturday morning, observers cheered as they watched a crew remove long-standing busts of former U.S. Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney and Gov. Thomas Johnson away from Frederick City Hall, remnants of the city’s slave-owning past.
Some residents rejoiced, others not so much. In my opinion, one would think this would be viewed as a step in the right direction. Instead, many social media reactions to the FNP article were insensitive, offensive, some uninformed, and others lacking basic competence. Take a look:
And to that I say, Roger Brooke Taney and Thomas Johnson were significant parts of local history, for sure. But do they belong in a municipal office?
1. History will be erased.
History will not and cannot ever be erased, whitewashed maybe, but the physical removal of busts or statues cannot in any shape or form, alter the facts of American history. You can breathe, Sally. However, these busts belong in their respective museums to be acknowledged as history, not to be honored in public setting. The Roger Brooke Taney House is located downtown should any Frederick resident or visitor feel compelled to brush up on our local deities. It should be highlighted that the busts are being relocated not removed and that fragment of history can be researched anywhere, i.e. online, libraries, museums, etc. But you already knew that, right?
Still, there is concern about the preservation of good ol’ Frederick history. Here is a quick and dirty history lesson for those who are uninformed:
Roger Brooke Taney, was a former Frederick attorney and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The pinnacle of his career was defined in the historical 1857 Dred Scott Case when he ruled that black slaves were not citizens of the United States.
Let that sink in.
Now, there is the argument that we cannot change the values of our historical figures as it pertains to that era in time. The defense is that most, if not all of our political leaders and idolized monarchs in history were slave owners coupled with the logic that humans form their values based on societal and legal morality at that time. That somehow, applying their values to our current day progressivism is unfair. True, but incomplete. Let’s be clear: there’s only been one sector of society whose values have remained unchanged throughout the entire course of American history: African Americans.
Haven’t we’ve always been saying we’re human? It’s not the values that have changed, as there is no need for an adaptation or assimilation. They’ve been there and have remained unchanged yet fallen on selectively deaf ears. We’ve just found that many of you are playing catch up.
In disputing that rhetoric, I have a question.
What is to be said about those who were ahead of their time in insight and vision about the leadership and landscape of this great nation? It is because of these historical figures pursuing and exploring moral and human bounds that propelled this country into one of true democracy. There are values and ethics that transcend time. If no one had pushed our societal and ethical limits would we even be here? If no one had envisioned a world unseen, should we have defaulted to the mediocre status quo, to those who, not only stayed stagnant in the advancement and improvement, but actively worked against the progression of African Americans? Who chose wrongly when given the reigns to make everlasting, groundbreaking decisions that affected all of American history?
So no, do not honor those who did not have the courage, vision or human decency to know what’s right from wrong without legal stature. To actually believe that all man are created equal. We honor those who deserve it. Those heroes exist(ed). And let them be the ones who are honored in public forum instead.
2. The Woes of Political Correctness.
When discussing political correctness, we have to acknowledge the reason it exists. Political correctness is the newly developed foundation and bridge for progressive communication and conversation between the majority and previously ostracized communities. It is a new landscape for the privileged as they are used to communicating without regard for nuisances. New conversations have blossomed where once nonexistent. As a result, our means of communication must change as we converse with those from different backgrounds with contrasting perspectives and feelings. Some may feel the policing of political correctness has gone too far, but I view it as necessary. The era of cultural sensitivity and political correctness is something that needed to happen in order for those who have the luxury of oblivion to become aware. It might seem like a sea of so many needs, with so many of us yelling in all directions, but this is the catalyst for change. Deemed annoying, unnerving, confusing, and sometimes contradictory by the world jury, at least we live in a day where everyone can be heard, old ideologies can be challenged and replaced with a more accurate and inclusive representation. So let the heightened sensitivity continue; we’ve been screaming all along. Where previously gone unheard, we can be heard now.
3. Let’s talk about privilege.
Why you ask? Well, because I always find it odd when people of color are told how to feel and to react in conflicting circumstances. It’s no coincidence that in the comment thread of the article, there was a striking paleness to all opposed: Most who commented were white. Why does that matter? White people telling people of color to “get over” a man being honored in a municipal office who denied POC citizenship is privilege. It’s a slap in my face. The mere convenience of celebrating a historical figure who made a poor decision because history shows your lineage was kept safe and intact, while ours was left vulnerable is privilege. Did you ever think of the trauma African Americans may experience as they walk past that office and they see daily reminders that their lives don’t matter by these types of microaggressions? No African Americans do not need busts of these figures; we know our history and we can never forget. An entire part of the Frederick community was being ostracized whether by choice or circumstance. And that my friends, is what we call privilege. Having the luxury of not caring about others’ experiences when yours are the majority and well ours are the…afterthought.
Acknowledgement not Honor. We as American people have a duty to acknowledge and report accurate history, but we as American people also have a right to be selective in which moments in history to honor and merely, acknowledge.
Masters, Kate. “Observers watch removal of Taney and Johnson busts from Frederick City Hall.” Frederick News-Post. Frederick News-Post, 18 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.