Honoring contestable historic figures

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

We live in a time when it is proper to be politically correct, refraining from insulting or causing a person, group or organization from feeling personally attacked, degraded, or guilty. For many, this is nothing short of diluting or minimizing the truth. Unadulterated truth is under attack and those guilty of atrocious crimes and deeds, past and present, are literally being pardoned. The sad part is that freedom of speech is under attack and the public is basically being duped by those advocating for those who have historically been involved in deplorable acts against humanity. The public has been asleep while polarizing discriminatory remnants of our past have made their way into mainstream society as public institutions and public displays to be honored.

Good or bad, you cannot erase history. If for no other reason, history should be a learning tool in going forward. History should not be altered or diluted to appease the conscience of any particular person or group. Time eventually reveals that there are those destined to be on the right side of history as well as those who will be on the wrong side. However, there is no justification for having anyone (past or present) memorialized or honored publically when they are known for horrendous crimes against humanity. They may be part of history and should be mentioned in books or recognized in museums but not honored and immortalized in public structures, including buildings, schools, streets, or monuments. This is nothing short of promoting racism, bigotry, discrimination, and unapologetic hate.

Some may argue that all have sinned and no one is perfect, but there are acts committed that should universally eliminate some from being honored visibly from future generations. Setting the guidelines for who should be honored or removed from public observance is now being questioned. The legitimacy of certain public figures who have been memorialized is being questioned. You can even find honored past United States presidents who were slave owners, slave traders, racists, or involved in the decimation of Native Americans. These public figures have been etched in countless public edifices and streets. Do you feel their names should be eliminated from public venues? You can see that determining who should be considered ‘undesirable’ and kept from public places is not always an easy task. Some people defend these degrading images because they are not sensitive to the feelings of racism and disrespect that other ethnic groups may feel about an existing object of contention.

It would not be debatable if a building, institution, or public monument honoring Hitler was contested. It would be considered an abomination and an insult to Jews. One must consider the extent of disrespect and hurt some public monuments may bring to certain groups of people. Flaunting some painful reminders of our past is not productive and often acts as a divisive tool. Guidelines made to rationalize or accept some of these contentious public monuments should be mindful of the people impacted negatively.

Let’s be aware of those adamant in supporting and visibly parading contentious objects of hate as part of their historic legacy. I think if they put themselves in the shoes of those on the other side, they would be more understanding in minimizing hurtful and painful memories.

Sometimes you have to stand on the ‘outside looking in’ to be able to honestly see something as it really is. The common denominator in removing a public object of contention should be the extent of the pain, suffering, and disrespect caused to a large group of people and the message perceived by the public when identifying with the figure being honored.