A group of students at Hofstra University outside New York City are demanding the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, America’s third president, and founder of the Democratic Party. In protesting Jefferson, the students cited white supremacy, eugenics, and the Ku Klux Klan, an organization founded 39 years after the president died.
“Jefferson Has Gotta Go!” declares the Facebook event scheduled for Friday. A large cadre of identity politics groups are co-sponsoring the event: Campus Feminist Collective, Collegiate Women of Color, Democrats of Hofstra University, Hofstra History Club, Hofstra NAACP Chapter, Peace Action Matters, Queer & Trans People of Color Coalition, Student Advocates of Safer Sex, The Gender Identity Federation, The Pride Network of Hofstra University, and Young Democratic Socialists of Hofstra. As of Wednesday night, 61 people said they would attend the protest, with 49 more “interested.”
“While Jefferson’s architectural designs have gone on to inspire the designs of many American universities, Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States,” JaLoni Owens declared in a petition on Change.org, which had 704 signatures on Wednesday.
In a Facebook post explaining the reasons behind her protest, Owens wrote, “He shouldn’t be idolized or honored. He belongs in a museum. I’m more than happy to share additional info about Jefferson with ANYONE!”
Perhaps ironically, Hofstra University’s Jefferson statue does not commemorate the third president’s political leadership or his drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, as the museum website explains, it commemorates his architecture. His architectural design, “the tradition of the quadrangle,” emerges across Hofstra’s campus.
In her critique, Owens brought up a few good points against Jefferson. The man did own nearly 600 slaves. He did indeed impregnate his slave Sally Hemings. He did indeed write that black people were inferior, a disgusting perspective sadly common in his day, and not yet disproven by modern genetic studies.
Then again, the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) Owens had to couch her anti-racist protest in racial terms. “WHITE ALLIES – Please understand that this is a protest against white supremacy and that you as white people – even though you’re our allies – benefit from white supremacy!” she wrote.
“Your obligation is to fight that. Come prepared to step up if racial slurs or otherwise offensive things are said to organizers of color or poc attending. If you’re able, come prepared to hold posters and like …. PROTEST,” Owens insisted. “Do not just come and take selfies for your Instagram feed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
This caveat looks like a perfect self-parody, but it seems Owens is legitimately concerned about white people derailing her protest for Instagram selfies. After all, both the petition and the Facebook event started with “TWs” — the hip new acronym for “trigger warnings.”
She didn’t limit her warnings to white people, however. Instead, she broke up “people of color” (POC) into two groups: black people of color, and non-black POC allies, who also got a warning.
“NON-BLACK POC ALLIES – Y’all are POC, but not everyone’s roots run through enslavement! Pls be respectful! Don’t derail! There is room for all of us!!! POC solidarity, pls!” Owens breathlessly wrote.
As if this were not enough, Owens also went over the deep end in her attacks on Thomas Jefferson.
The SJW wrote that the third president “raped countless enslaved black women and children,” a charge grossly extrapolated from the story of Sally Hemings, a young slave woman with whom Jefferson fathered children. What he did was arguably rape by definition, since he owned her, but there is no other evidence he forced any other slaves to have sex with him.
“Jefferson also embraced eugenics, citing that black people were genetically inferior in a number of his writings and speeches,” Owens wrote. Jefferson’s ugly racist views are undeniable, but America’s third president died in 1826, 56 years before the term “eugenics” was coined by Francis Galton. The eugenics movement was indeed evil and many eugenicists — Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger proudly among them — were racist like Jefferson, but the third president did not live long enough to soil his reputation with this movement.
Owens also proceeded to make the following declaration: “Jefferson has been embraced as an icon by white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and online white supremacist chat rooms such as Storm Front and Daily Stormer, a website domestic terrorist Dylann Roof actively used before committing a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in December of 2015.”
Case closed! Thomas Jefferson is responsible for a mass shooting … not exactly. This connection is so tenuous, straw men would be embarrassed. Violent racist organizations could embrace any number of historic figures “as an icon.”
Furthermore, Jefferson died thirty-nine years before the Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865. Once again, his death prevented him from ever sullying himself with the KKK.
History can be complicated, and it is very easy for modern partisans to whitewash or demonize particular figures. In the wake of the Confederate monument craze, it stands to reason the ire of campus activists would turn against prominent American founders, as President Donald Trump warned. Prophetically, he said, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
America’s history is full of racists — many of them Democrat, even recently — and it is impractical to excise from history everyone whom today’s activists find distasteful. Jefferson had many skeletons in his closet, but if SJWs dictate which statues stand or fall, how long will it be until every statue before 2015 is found hateful because no public figure until then supported transgenderism?
Jefferson was a racist slaveowner in a painfully racist time, and he even cut up the Bible to remove all references to Jesus’ miracles. Even so, he was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, America’s third president, and a groundbreaking architecture designer.
Such historic figures should be remembered. Since Americans broadly support leaving up monuments to Confederate generals, they are likely to oppose removing statues of Thomas Jefferson. Hofstra University should understand that, and refuse to cave to student pressure on this issue.