How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Last night vandals smeared the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia with the phrase “racist + rapist,” reports WVIR-TV. Today marks Founder’s Day, which celebrates Jefferson’s 275th birthday.

The University of Virginia released a statement, saying, “The university is disappointed that individuals vandalized the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn on the day that we honor his contributions to our University and to our democracy.”

The UVa administration is “disappointed.” Not “indignant” about vandalism to the founder of the university and a founding father of the nation. Not “shocked.” Not “outraged.” Just “disappointed.”

The latest vandalism follows an incident last September in which someone draped the statue with a sheet that read, “Black Lives Matter. Fuck White Supremacy.”

Vandals, let me tell you what university administrators can’t bring themselves to say. If you’re trying to change things for the better, you’re not helping. If you want to convert people to your cause, you don’t get it by desecrating the revered symbols of the people you’re trying to convert. In fact, you do the opposite. Want more rednecks flying big-ass Confederate battle flags just off the Interstate? This is how you get more rednecks flying big-ass Confederate battle flags just off the Interstate.

I could say something similar to the rednecks. Want more defilement of Thomas Jefferson statues? This is how you get more defilement of Thomas Jefferson statues. Here’s the difference. You are University of Virginia students — you’re attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country. You’re supposed to be well-informed and articulate. The rednecks are just… rednecks.

Go back and study your history. See how Frederick Douglas acquitted himself. See how Harriet Tubman acquitted herself. See how Booker T. Washington acquitted himself. See how Thurgood Marshall acquitted himself. See how Martin Luther King acquitted himself. They didn’t use vulgar profanity. They didn’t desecrate the founding fathers. They appealed to peoples’ better nature. And they made a difference.

If you want to discuss Jefferson’s historical legacy — his role in articulating and advancing human freedoms, his sins as a slave holder, his views towards race, his role in abolishing the international slave trade — by all means, let’s have that discussion. The man was not a saint. It is reasonable for every generation to reinterpret his contributions for good and for ill in this country. But vandalizing his statue doesn’t contribute to the conversation — it shuts the conversation down.

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18 responses to “How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

  1. At first blush, I thought the rapist reference was to Bill Clinton. But then I remembered the left has special rules for the Clintons. They are free to do as they please. Just ask Tim Kaine and Fred Hiatt.

    • re: ” Frederick Douglas acquitted himself. See how Harriet Tubman acquitted herself. See how Booker T. Washington acquitted himself. See how Thurgood Marshall acquitted himself. See how Martin Luther King acquitted himself. ”

      well heck… how many statues were erected for them for being such good guys and even if they had .. how many of their statues would have been “desecrated” with words like rapist and racist?

      maybe a little context issue?

      I don’t excuse the vandalism… though.. it’s wrong no matter who does it.. except of course if the statue is of the Clintons…

  2. Jim –

    I think you miss the by far larger and more important question. What, if anything, is going on at the University of Virginia, its Grounds and classrooms, to breed and fester what now has become a chronic string of ugly events the University? And why now has it spread to include the entire town of Charlottesville, Virginia, and indeed elsewhere, including Virginia Tech?

  3. As I recall the more sedate W&M students have used post-it notes to attach their protests to the TJ statute on that campus. That offends me not at all. Someone should suggest that to the ‘Hoos….I saw no such decorations on the statue of TJ beside the Seine last summer, and found the plaque on the Champs Elysees where he lived, and even a reference to him on an old Left Bank restaurant where he dined. The French still love him. He’d have been pleased by that. The TJ PR machine survives (I’d like to think I would have been an Adams vote.)

    It very well may not have been anybody associated with the university.

  4. Jim hit the nail on the head. Everyone seems to enjoy being angry these days, and the angrier the better. Our ideologies have become our faith – there is no room for doubt, no room for discussion, and only the purest of the faithful are entitled to an opinion. Any dissent from the politically correct is apostasy. Any action in defense of the faith is justified. With the Left and the Right spiraling out of control, those of us in the Middle are rejected from both sides.

  5. — Paul Ryan — how it feels to be the “leader” left behind by an entire political party . . .

  6. re: ” Frederick Douglas acquitted himself. See how Harriet Tubman acquitted herself. See how Booker T. Washington acquitted himself. See how Thurgood Marshall acquitted himself. See how Martin Luther King acquitted himself. ”

    America’s heroes are often men of war that fought for and even against the United States (confederate monuments). We often elect them president, name military installations after them, even a city. They are widely admired in the annals of history books. However, if the war is waged against racism and white supremacy, the accolades are only reserved for Black people that are peaceful and loving. I.E. “Good boys.”

    That’s not a coincidence.

    • Start a fund raising campaign for Nat Turner or Gabriel Prosser.

      Or, if you’re not into slave rebellions, join me in pushing for a statue to honor Alexander T. Augusta, the highest ranking African-American in the Union army, a physician, Norfolk-born, and an advocate of ex-slaves’ rights after the Civil War.

      • Why was Alexander T. Augusta not recognized at the same time others involved in the Civil War were recognized? Why didn’t he get a statue also at the same time?

        How come virtually none of the notable black folks of that time were also not recognized with memorials and statues?

        • Because he fought for the North.

          Next question.

          • you had lots of others – in the South who did not fight for the north – and who made significant contributions but they were black. Where are their statues and memorials?

            Standing up for the rights of blacks – was essentially being opposed to the Confederacy and thus such folks would not be so honored ?

          • But that’s the problem, Jim. Places like Richmond don’t honor and remember the Civil War they honor and remember the Confederacy. Isn’t it time to stop focusing on “our recent unpleasantness” and start focusing on the totality of the Civil War?

            Interestingly, Ulysses S Grant owned slaves too. Some he inherited from his father and one was a personal slave. I guess Grant PArk in Chicago needs to be renamed and we need somebody new on the $50.

            Final trivia point, Sally Hemmings was the half sister of Jefferson’s first wife Martha while Martha was Thomas Jefferson’s own third cousin.

      • Another thing Richmonders seem incapable of understanding is that there were A LOT of Virginians who wouldn’t join the rebellion and held positions of great importance in the Union cause. Frances Harrison Pierpoint (the so-called father of West Virginia), Lt Gen Winfield Scott (one of Lincoln’s primary military advisors), Adm David Farragut, Adm Samuel Phillips Lee (cousin of Robert E Lee and a good Fairfax County man), Gem George Henry Thomas (the Rock of Chicamauga), Maj Martin Delany (first black officer), Sgt William Harvey Carney (first African American awarded the Medal of Honor). The list goes on.

        I always marvel at the ignorance of many in Virginia when the declare places like Northern Virginia “Yankee occupied Virginia”. 40% of the military officers in Virginia at the start of the US Civil War fought for the Union. Only the most confused took up arms in an immoral rebellion that could never have been won. Yet it’s these delusional losers who are honored in Virginia to the complete exclusion of that large number of Virginians who refused to be traitors to the United States.

  7. Regarding the ‘RACIST AND RAPIST THOMAS JEFFERSON here is a most interesting siminar called “Connecting with Community and Descendants” held at University of Virginia on Oct. 20, 2017.

    See this 1 hour and 23 minute discussion among those most affected today. Every minute is worth watching and pondering.

    See it here:

    It is part of the two day seminar titled “Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape found at:

    I found the contrast between the “Connecting with Community and Descendants” seminar and the balance of the conference striking. And most informative.

  8. The “great unpleasantness” is FAR from OVER:

    “The South’s Push to Resegregate Its Schools”

    “On April 4, a little-known legislative committee met for the fourth time in six weeks in downtown Raleigh, N.C. Although its name is dull and obscure—the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units—its mission is anything but. The committee is the front line of a legislative push, led by statehouse Republicans, to dismantle North Carolina’s big countywide school districts by allowing rich, often white suburbs to secede.”

    Report: Public schools more segregated now than 40 years ago

    Today, many black children still attend schools in racially and economically isolated neighborhoods, while their families still reside in lonely islands of poverty: 39 percent of black children are from families with incomes below the poverty line, compared with 12 percent of white children (U.S. Census Bureau(a)); 28 percent of black children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared with 4 percent of white children (Casey 2013).

  9. re: ” But that’s the problem, Jim. Places like Richmond don’t honor and remember the Civil War they honor and remember the Confederacy. ”

    Yup. Dead on correct.

    And this lady aims to change that:

    ” Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, which is headquartered at the site of the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond Virginia. Coleman is trying to tell the story of the Civil War in a way to help visitors rethink the conflict.”

    Coleman is using that position to look for a new way to tell the story of the Civil War, a conflict so easy to render in stereotypes. With a major expansion of the museum underway, her goal is to show the conflict from multiple points of view – not just North and South, but through the eyes of women, Native Americans, enslaved blacks, immigrants.

    One of her first big events was an annual market day, reenacting the way colonial Virginians auctioned cattle and land. A staffer pointed out the obvious: The real market would have sold slaves, too.

    Coleman decided it was time to do something radical. She took a plan to upper management to stage a live slave auction. And she would be one of those on the sale block.”

    I’d actually like to see an article in BR about this……….
    How about it?

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