Thomas Jefferson saw education as one of the primary guarantors of American liberty. “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic, he wrote.
To that end, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. Now, the statue honoring him on that campus has been defaced by Black Lives Matter protesters who covered the statue in black and posted signs decrying him as a racist and a rapist.
The scene drips with irony. The man perhaps most responsible for the right of BLM protesters to gather and speak their mind is denounced as not worthy of being honored.
The group called on UVa to adhere to the Black Student Alliance’s list of demands, formed last month in response to influx of white nationalist non-locals who have used Charlottesville as a rallying point. Published around the time of the Aug. 20 “March to Reclaim Our Grounds,” the list included the demand to “remove the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda” and ban white supremacist hate groups from campus.
The list calls for a balance of UVa’s “historical landscape,” and dubs the Jefferson statue “an emblem of white supremacy” that should be “re-contextualized with a plaque to include that history.”
It further demands that the university increase the enrollment of African American undergraduate students, increase the proportion of African American faculty and require all students to undergo some form of education on “white supremacy, colonization and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson, the university and the city of Charlottesville.”
“The same moderates who condemn the hate that came to Charlottesville one month ago fetishize the legacy of Jefferson, and imagine him as our collective moral compass,” the primary speaker said. “We cannot create a hierarchy within white supremacy.
“We can and must condemn the violence of one month ago and simultaneously recognize Jefferson as a rapist, racist, and slave owner,” she continued. “The visibility of physical violence from white supremacists should not take our attention away from condemning and disrupting more ‘respectable’ racists that continue to control the structures that perpetuate institutional racism.”
Multiple speakers shared their thoughts on the matter with the crowd, many of whom criticized the university administration for its response to the rallies and claimed the university was not paying its workers a living wage. The crowd implored one another to remain steadfast in their protestations.
“There is only one side to this,” said one of the protesters standing upon the Jefferson statue.
I agree there is only one side when it comes to white supremacy. But do you trust these people to carefully and accurately define who a “white supremacist” is? I daresay we and they have differing views on who and what constitutes a white supremacist. Whether deliberately or out of sheer ignorance, these protesters see “white supremacy” mostly in those they disagree with politically. They create false, exaggerated narratives that really come down to trying to silence and suppress political opposition.
I’m not talking about the racists, skinheads, Nazis, and kluxers who rioted in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. You’d have to be a blind bat not to see them as the far right radical fringe of haters that they are.
But Jefferson, who experienced a lot of hate directed at him in his lifetime (the election of 1800 was one of the dirtiest in American history), nevertheless stood four square for freedom of speech.
“To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.”
The BLM protest should be protected. They can believe anything they want and speak their mind freely. As long as they are peaceful, they should be allowed to vent their anger and frustration to their hearts content.
So, why do they not grant their political opponents the same courtesy? Why do they deliberately exaggerate and mangle the definition of “white supremacy” to include those who simply disagree with their worldview? Are they so unsure of their cause that they fear it won’t stand up to scrutiny, to debate?
They fear logic and reason because their arguments are based on neither. An argument based on emotion, by definition, eschews rationality and embraces dissonance and incongruity.
There is racism in America. There are those who subscribe to the odious doctrine of white supremacy. No thinking person argues those points. But no thinking person should accept the flawed, exaggerated, hysterical arguments of Black Lives Matter, who covered the statue of the patron saint of free speech, oblivious to the paradox that act represents.