Lincoln is one of our most misunderstood and complicated presidents. The Great Emancipator once sent an emissary to Belize to see if the U.S. government could purchase land and move all the freed slaves there. The man who saved the union suspended constitutional rights, oversaw the military occupation of Kentucky and Maryland, and ignored decisions by the Supreme Court.
But Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the union. That got his face on Mount Rushmore and gave him the loving admiration of historians.
Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison students just don’t think that Honest Abe was woke enough. So they’re demanding his statue on campus be removed.
Their reason is astonishingly stupid: “Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black,” says the president of the black student union, Nalah McWhorter.
“He was also very publicly anti-Black,” said Nalah McWhorter, the president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union. “Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black. He said a lot in his presidential campaigns. His fourth presidential campaign speech, he said that he believes there should be an inferior and superior, and he believes white people should be the superior race.”
It’s a not-often-taught fact about Lincoln, but it’s true. It is part of why she and the rest of her organization are pushing to get him removed, and Lincoln isn’t the only one.
There are anecdotes galore about Lincoln’s casual, nauseating racism. He mused aloud in a cabinet meeting that maybe some of the freed blacks were smart enough that they could learn how to read — even vote. He saw black soldiers as cannon fodder for white troops. Until September of 1862, he was willing to accept the Southern states back in the union — slavery and all.
He was, simply put, a man of his time.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement to News 3 Now the university is continuing work on creating a diverse and inclusive campus, but she added she supports keeping the statue of Lincoln.
“Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed,” she said. “However, when the totality of his tenure is considered, Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of our greatest presidents, having issued the Emancipation Proclamation, persuaded Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment ending slavery and preserved the Union during the Civil War.”
McWhorter not only doesn’t understand history, but she also has no reverence for it.
“For them to want to protect a breathless, lifeless statue more than they care about the experiences of their black students that have been crying out for help for the past 50, 60 years, it’s just a horrible feeling as a student, as a black and brown student on campus,” she said.
Can’t you do both? Can’t you protect a statue and care about blacks at the same time? But these kids don’t think that way. There’s no nuance. There are no gray areas — only black and white. It comes from an education system that doesn’t offer alternatives. There are good guys and bad guys and we should judge them not by the standards of their own time, but by our standards. Pointing out that Lincoln doesn’t live in 21st-century America and would have no clue what McWhorter or any other activist is talking about doesn’t seem to faze her.
There are old photos of S.A. Brownshirts burning books by Jewish authors on college campuses across Germany. The only problem was that the ignorant kids were burning books by everyone of any religion, any political persuasion, just to see the bonfire grow.
It’s this kind of mindless barbarism that’s at work in Madison and elsewhere. They’re not going to stop until the bonfire is so large it consumes us all.