Consistent erasure

I noticed a letter with a cute play on words (“Grow out of our ‘Haightful’ history,” Sept. 19), and it caused me to wonder if in withdrawing recognition of 19th Century figures for comments and views at variance with modern values, are we failing to be consistent? If we are serious about it, and it is something more than mere virtue signaling, there should be no room for selectivity lest we appear hypocritical. 

As an example, Abraham Lincoln made these remarks during his famous 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas, reported in the pro-Lincoln Chicago Press and Tribune on Sept. 21, 1858: 

“I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together in terms of social and political equality. Inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Also, Robert Morgan, a writer for the Institute for Historical Review, confirmed that, on Aug. 14, 1862, Lincoln invited free Black ministers to the White House to have a conversation. Lincoln did not hesitate to convince them of their inferiority when he candidly said:

“You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.”

These comments seem quite “Haightful.” One man’s name is erased from a school for making remarks reflecting the attitudes of most white men of his era, while the other man’s similar remarks are ignored and his name remains on one of our schools. Why is that? Are we going to be consistent in these matters or not?


David A. Desiderio

Editor’s note: President Lincoln also approved the largest mass execution in American history. While he commuted the sentence of more than 260 Lakota Sioux in the same order, the U.S. Military hanged 38 members of the tribe on Dec. 26, 1862.