If you erased all the racists from American history - or even world history - it would make for a very, very short history book.
People are re-examining a lot of things these days, sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes idiotically. Someone has gotten it into their heads that any statue is of a racist, and should be torn down. And idiotically, they tore down statutes of abolitionists.
But it begs the question, how do you handle the underlying racism or prejudice of our earlier generations? Because everyone back then was pretty racist, and most people are racist today - even just a little bit. Like I noted before, once the blacks leave the room, whites - liberal whites - will make fun of "black-sounding" names like Johnthony or La Zanya. Everyone is a little racist - they even wrote a song about it. Trying to eliminate all racism is next to impossible (indeed, many blacks harbor racist views about white people, too!). Providing equal opportunity is probably a more realistic goal.
On NPR yesterday, an article about John Muir and the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club, which is pretty much an all-white club, is having a BLM moment and doing a lot of naval-gazing. For some odd reason, kids from the ghetto aren't interested in camping out in the woods and communing with nature, or paying money to join a club of mostly white men with beards who like to sleep in tents. Funny thing, that.
I would think a neat thing to do would be to set up some sort of outreach to get kids in the city ghettos to come to the woods and commune with nature and expose them to things outside of the concrete forest. It could change their lives.
But instead, they said they want to restructure the board of the club to have a majority of people of color, which strikes me as overkill, given that more than 70% of the US population is white. The Sierra Club also decided to throw John Muir under the bus, because like
most people all people of his generation, he harbored pretty racist views about the superiority of the white race over others.
Yes, all people. You see, this country wasn't founded on a lot of touchy-feely. White folks decided that they were going to take this land - from the Indians, who didn't seem to be using it much - and conquer it, with the help of some slave labor, of course. It was a popular thing to do back then - most of our European friends were into it as well - in Africa, Asia, the Subcontinent, Australia - anywhere there were people who didn't have firearms and sailing ships, and even some who did. Manifest destiny - maybe it was wrong, but it did create the country we lived in, and we have to live with that.
Theories about racial superiority are not an American thing, but a worldwide phenomenon. The Japanese, seeing Westerners sail into Tokyo bay, decided to close off the country to foreign influence - for a while at least. But they realized that Western technology would eventually overwhelm them, and decided to play catch-up in a serious way. And their own racist views about their fellow Asian neighbors were employed to conquer and subjugate. While white folks over the years have abused "people of color" those same people of color have done a pretty good job of abusing each other, too.
As I noted before, in the Hispanic community (two words which fail to describe the varied people of Latin and South America, the Caribbean, and beyond), racism is rife and again based on skin color. Not only is there a tension between Hispanics and Blacks, within the Hispanic community, there is a hierarchy based on how pale your skin is. Again, I hate these "community" things, as they describe nothing. While the Puerto Rican and Cuban flags may look similar, people from those islands don't necessarily consider themselves part of the same culture - as they will be sure to remind you.
But once again, I digress.
Racial superiority even exists among people who are sympathetic to the plight of blacks in America. Many civil rights programs and affirmative action programs are predicated on the believe by some liberal whites that black people are indeed inferior and need a "hand up" in life. This belief is rarely stated out loud of course, but it exists. And it is not a new belief. Even back in the age of abolition, there was a patronizing view of blacks. Black people were felt to need the assistance of whites to bring them up to "our" level of civilization. Forty acres and a mule, was the promise for freed slaves - not a factory job, even, or a job in an office. Failing that, help them get back to Africa - a movement that founded an entire country, Liberia. It was the "white man's burden" to shepherd these lesser races. That's pretty racist right there.
Racism is everywhere and in every time. Back in the 1920's, the KKK saw a resurgence - actually its heyday. Many people marched on Washington in an horrendous display of white sheets and pointy hats. Back then, joining the Klan was like joining the Elks Club - it was something that a lot of Americans did, North and South. Why this was, and why it quickly became unpopular is a good question - the 1920's were a crazy time.
The point is, you can take the entire history of the United States, and indeed, the world, and find racism in every decade, every century, every year. There was no time where everyone was living in peace and harmony, so just get over that. I think we need to triage which historical figures are worthy of fame, and which are worthy only of infamy. And it helps to note the context of the commemoration of some of these folks. Civil War statues of Confederate "heroes" erected in the Jim Crow era - with State Laws passed preventing their removal - probably are the most suspect.
While it is constructive to re-examine history and point out how people felt and believed back then, I am not sure it is constructive to erase from history everyone who wasn't perfect in every way. Because you pretty much could erase everything, including the Holy Bible, which is chock full of racism of its own.
And again, this is perhaps another example of how we are being baited today. After all, it was only a few months ago when the presence of these statues or figures in history books didn't seem to generate much controversy. Why now? Why during an election year? Oh, wait, I think I found the answer.
I think another answer is that by diluting the BLM protests with all these diversions, it will cause the movement to lose focus (on Policing techniques) and eventually peter out. This could be by design.
But I think the main thing is, outside forces are wanting us to feel bad about our own country - when in fact we have the greatest country in the world. Such protests don't exist - or don't last long - in places like China or Russia. The West is being attacked using its own freedoms as a weapon.
The good news is, in the long run, freedom wins out. While people may protest injustice, they do appreciate they have the right to protest, unlike in the countries which are fomenting dissent within ours.