It’s not really news that today’s “cancel culture” is targeting historical figures who don’t live up to today’s “woke-ness” standards, and San Francisco is probably at the epicenter of this phenomenon. But the Golden Gate City has reached new lows in its efforts to cleanse history by setting its sights on none other than Abraham Lincoln, supposedly for not caring enough about black lives. A school district committee is recommending schools named after the Great Emancipator and others be changed due to perceived shortcomings in their attitudes and policies.
Sounds crazy, right?
A school names advisory committee of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has been working to put together a spreadsheet on historical figures who have been honored by the district with schools named after them, for the purpose of re-evaluating whether those famous people live up to the district’s values.
Dozens of names are on the list, including George Washington and even California’s own Senator Dianne Feinstein.
It’s the chairman of that committee that made the criticism about Lincoln and Black Lives Matter. Jeremiah Jeffries, a first-grade teacher and leader of the committee, told the San Francisco Chronicle that “Lincoln, like the presidents before him and most after, did not show through policy or rhetoric that black lives ever mattered to them outside of human capital and as casualties of wealth building.”
As strange as Jeffries’ statement is, the committee’s spreadsheet indicates, and the chairman confirms, that the committee’s primary beef with Honest Abe has more to do with his supposed ill treatment of Native Americans.
“Abraham Lincoln is not seen as much of a hero at all among many American Indian nations and Native peoples of the United States, as the majority of his policies proved to be detrimental to them,” the spreadsheet comment begins. It goes on to cite laws such as the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 as examples. The latter legislation laid the foundation for the transcontinental railway linking the East and West coasts. To the committee, however, the railroad “led to the significant loss of land and natural resources, as well as the loss of lifestyle and culture, for many Indigenous peoples.”
Lincoln is not the committee’s only target for cancellation.
George Washington? Slaveowner. Thomas Edison? Allegedly electrocuted animals. The Alamo? A call for vengeance against Mexicans. Thomas Jefferson? Slaveowner. Francis Scott Key? Slaveowner and wrote a pro-slavery verse in the national anthem.
Other names on the chopping block: President William McKinley, Civil War generals Philip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman, naturalist John Muir, President James Monroe, author Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Revere.
Even one of today’s most famous liberals does not get a pass for her alleged misdeeds. California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, for whom an elementary school in the district is named, will be canceled if the committee’s recommendations are adopted. Sen. Feinstein’s offense? While she was mayor of San Francisco from 1978 – 88, she supposedly evicted an entire Filipino neighborhood, flew a Confederate flag at city hall, and at one point in her career opposed same-sex marriage. As to this latter offense, she no longer opposes same-sex marriage, but that’s apparently too little, too late for this committee of culture warriors.
This tale of over-the-top political correctness would be funny if it didn’t represent something more insidious. A correct understanding of history necessitates that we put historical figures in context, and not demand that they behave according to today’s attitudes and social standards. By rejecting historical figures and negating their accomplishments based on today’s cultural standards, we allow the enlightened virtue signalers among us to tell us what to think and believe about our past, present and future. That’s the deadly downside to San Francisco’s “woke-ness.”
Communism comes to mind as a system which, as it played out in various regimes around the world, constantly re-wrote history – and even erased it if necessary – to justify the current despotism of its leaders. Western-style democracy, on the other hand, learns from the past and celebrates its history, warts and all, as the best way to move toward greater freedom and a more humane social order.
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