Get your hammers and chisels out! Ready the bulldozers! Tear down the statues and remove the names of presidents who are considered “racists”!
Writing in The Huffington Post last year, Ibram Kendi, a professor at American University, provided the names of the most racist U.S. presidents. Kendi won the 2016 National Book Award for his analysis of racism in which he saw Angela Davis and the Black Panthers as the good guys.
I just want to make certain everyone knows just how crazy it could become. Here’s the list from No. 11 through No. 1:
No. 11. George W. Bush
Kendi’s rationale: No Child Left Behind Act and Katrina
No. 10. Calvin Coolidge
Kendi’s rationale: The Immigration Act of 1924 rationalized discrimination against Asians and restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe, severely restricted African immigrants and banned the immigrations of Arabs and Asians. “America must be kept American,” President Coolidge said during his first annual message to Congress in 1923.
No. 9. Dwight Eisenhower
Kendi’s rationale: President Eisenhower did not endorse Brown v. Board of Education and dragged his feet to enforce it. He “did not wage war against segregation. And he remains as much to blame as anyone for its persistence, for the lives lost fighting against it.”
No. 8. James Polk
Kendi’s rationale: President Polk waged the Mexican American War (1846-1848). “War propagandists framed the U.S. as bringing freedom and civilization to the backward Mexicans. From the war spoils, the U.S. seized from Mexico nearly all of what is now the American Southwest—a gargantuan land seizure that mirrored the ongoing violent seizures of Native American land and the ongoing violent seizures of Black labor.”
No. 7. Woodrow Wilson
Kendi’s rationale: “Professor Wilson and then President Wilson unapologetically backed what he called the ‘great Ku Klux Klan,’ and championed the Klan’s violent disenfranchisement of southern African Americans in the late 19th century. President Wilson began the brutal two-decade U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1915, preventing Haitians from self-governing. And possibly most egregiously, at the Versailles Convention settling World War I in 1919, President Wilson effectively killed Japan’s proposal for a treaty recognizing racial equality, thus sustaining the life of European colonialism.”
No. 6. Franklin Roosevelt
Kendi’s rationale: “President Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942 that ended up rounding up and forcing more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into prisons during World War II is arguably the most racist executive order in American history.”
No. 5. Thomas Jefferson
Kendi’s rationale: He owned slaves. [Note: Kendi doesn’t mention his affair with a slave.]
No. 4. James Monroe
Kendi’s rationale: The Monroe Doctrine, which was aimed at protecting U.S. interests in Latin and South America, was used “as a rationalizing cord for U.S. intervention into sovereign Latin American states, including the toppling of governments unfriendly to U.S. interests. This Monroe Doctrine was as racist and devastating to Latin American communities abroad as the doctrine of Manifest Destiny was to indigenous communities at home.”
No. 3. Ronald Reagan
Kendi’s rationale: “President Reagan attracted voters through racially coded appeals that allowed them to avoid admitting they were attracted by the racist appeals.
“President Reagan took President Nixon’s racist drug war to a new level, and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown bodies accelerated…. Reagan stands on this list as the representative of all these mass incarcerating presidents in the late 20th century.”
No. 2. Andrew Jackson
Kendi’s rationale: President “Jackson stepped into the U.S. presidency as a wealthy Tennessee enslaver and military general who had founded and spearheaded the Democratic Party. Jacksonian Democrats, as historians call them, amassed a winning coalition of southern enslavers, White working people, and recent European immigrants who regularly rioted against abolitionists, indigenous and Black communities, and civil rights activists before and after the Civil War.”
No. 1. Andrew Johnson
Kendi’s rationale: “President Johnson offered amnesty, property rights, and voting rights to all but the highest Confederate officials (most of whom he pardoned a year later). He later ordered the return of land to pardoned Confederates, null and voided those wartime orders that granted Blacks forty acres and a mule, and removed many of the Black troops from the South.
“Feeling empowered by President Johnson, Confederates instituted a series of discriminatory Black codes at the constitutional conventions that reformulated southern states in the summer and fall of 1865. The immediate postwar South became the spitting image of the prewar South in everything but name—as the law replaced the master. These racist policies caused a postwar war since an untold number of Black people lost their lives resisting them.”
Here in Philadelphia, the city is debating whether to remove the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, who was the city’s top cop in the 1960s and went on to become mayor. Somehow lost in the debate is how poorly the city has done under African-American leadership, including the bombing of fellow African-Americans in 1985.
But there’s more. The Associated Press reports that there are other non-Confederate monuments that might be toppled. https://apnews.com/c8875d316f5f4c4bab4d48812cb7d253/In-dispute-over-statues,-where-do-you-draw-the-line
Christopher Columbus is a favorite target. But so is Peter Faneuil, whose name graces the colonial meeting place in Boston nicknamed the “Cradle of Liberty,” because he had ties to the slave trade.
Simply put, it’s clear that we need to get rid of the statues of all dead white guys who oppressed the lives of so many Americans! We could build memorials dedicated to Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and many others to replace the symbols of injustice.
It might be funny except more and more people actually think some of these are good ideas.