In the age of erasing and rebranding American history based on the premise of judging historical figures by modern standards, even Abraham Lincoln isn’t ‘anti-racist’ enough for the San Francisco school district.
In an effort to be more inclusive, the SFUSD School Name Advisory Committee is recommending the renaming of over 44 of the 125 schools in the California district because they bare the name of problematic historical figures. The list of schools, which contains many relatively obscure figures from the past, is filled with people who were considered great Americans all but five minutes ago, including 8 U.S. Presidents.
Among them is Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President and the man responsible for launching the country into a brutal Civil War over the liberation of African American slaves.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Lincoln is one of dozens of historical figures who the city school district’s renaming committee argued led lives so rife with racism, oppression or abuse that their names should not grace its buildings.”
Other than Lincoln, the list “include George Washington, Herbert Hoover and Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose name will be stripped from the Dianne Feinstein Elementary School for allowing the Confederate flag to fly outside City Hall back in 1984 when she was mayor,” the UK Daily Mail reported.
The committee is using an overly broad and wide reaching set of criteria that, if met, justifies renaming a building. “A variety of criteria could remove historical figures from the list, including being slave owners, known racists or white supremacists, anyone directly involved in colonization and people connected to human rights or environmental abuses,” Fox reported.
The SFUSD’s naming committee recommended stripping Lincoln’s name from San Francisco school buildings because most of his policies were “detrimental” to Native Americans the committee’s meeting notes claim.
“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.”
Critics of Lincoln, such as renaming committee chairman and first grade teacher Jeramiah Jeffries, say Lincoln’s encouragement of western settlement and expansion of the railroads “led to the significant loss of land and natural resources, as well as the loss of lifestyle and culture, for many Indigenous peoples.”
They also point to Lincoln’s deportation of Navajo Indians to western territories and and for ordering the execution of 38 Dakota rebels charged with murdering and raping American settlers and U.S. soldiers. He also communed 265 Dakota Indians’ capital punishment sentences due to a lack of evidence.
“The history of Lincoln and Native Americans is complicated, not nearly as well known as that of the Civil War and slavery,’ Jeffries said.
The committee’s chairman doesn’t believe black lives mattered to the Civil War president. “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.”
There are countless of references in Lincoln’s writings, both private and public, denouncing slavery as “evil,” and calling for long term equality among races.
The UK Daily Mail added, “Jeffries said the committee decided on the renaming once they discussed Lincoln’s treatment of Native Americans, and that the positive parts of his record cannot discount the negatives.”
“The discussion for Lincoln centered around his treatment of First Nation peoples, because that was offered first. Once he met criteria in that way, we did not belabor the point.” Though the committee’s recommendations are just that, it’s highly likely that the school board will follow through on removing Lincoln’s name from schools.
Among the other canceled figures include Teddy Roosevelt for opposing black suffrage, Herbert Hoover for his role in redlining as Secretary of Commerce, and inventor Thomas Edison for electrocuting animals during his anti-AC campaigns.
Even Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, currently representing California can’t escape cancel culture. “Feinstein, who was Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988 and has since served as a Democrat California Senator since 1992, will have her name removed from Dianne Feinstein Elementary because she allowed the Confederate flag to fly in front of San Francisco City Hall.”
While these men and several others have made immeasurably beneficial contributions to the country, they were inevitably victims of their time and its culture. Peering through every personal and professional statement made by a historical figure who lived 150 years ago, judging the beliefs of an 18th and 19th century person by the moral standards of 2020 will without a doubt find problematic actions in an otherwise remarkable person. Even today, actors, celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people are canceled for stupid comments made 5-10 years ago as a testament of how radically our culture’s tolerance has changed.
When a building is dedicated to someone, it’s a recognition that despite their flaws, they’ve done wonders for the community. It is not a celebration of their wrongs, but a celebration of their rights.
Lincoln was not perfect. If a modern politician quoted everything he ever said, they’d be shunned. But for his time, Lincoln was a leader and visionary for the abolition movement. Without Lincoln, slavery would’ve lasted for years if not decades longer than it already did. Jeffries, among others, are yanking context out of history to find some moral superiority against revolutionaries.