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Benjamin Conolly: Toppling of statue is beyond satire

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Frederick Douglass Statue at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Photo: Eli Pousson/Flickr,Public Domain
Frederick Douglass Statue at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Photo: Eli Pousson/Flickr,Public Domain

They tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass.

If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, that’s understandable. That it meant nothing to the ‘protesters’ who tore it down in Rochester, New York, is unforgivable.

Frederick Douglass was an important man in the history of the United States and the abolitionist movement.

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He was an activist, author, public speaker and a leader in the abolitionist movement.

He was also black, an escaped slave who went on to become one of the most inspirational figures in history.

And they tore down his statue.

They threw a rope over his neck, and they pulled until in crashed to the ground. His monument was just one of the US monuments torn down over recent weeks, a trend that has sparked debate in Australia about our own history.

But the tearing down of a black, escaped slave, abolitionist has revealed what the cause truly stands for.

It’s not about tearing down a ‘racist’ civilisation, it’s about rewriting history.

It started with Confederate statues, monuments to Southern civil war heroes, and many conceded that it’s probably ok to do that. The South, after all, were the baddies.

Then it was any historical figure who had owned slaves. Some of early America’s finest leaders and thinkers. And again, some conceded that maybe we shouldn’t idealise slave owners.

Then it was Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, a statue of the great man standing with a recently freed slave as he began to rise as Lincoln’s equal. At this point, to their credit, most people started to realise something was off.

Former slave and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Photo:
Former slave and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Photo:

Then it was ‘white Jesus’ and the ‘white supremacist’ depictions of God. Prominent black activist Shaun King tweeted out, “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been.”

And now, finally admitting that this isn’t about race, they’ve torn down a statue of Frederick Douglass.

Those who were meant to fight for tradition and truth gave up the premise.

Allowing any monument to be torn down in the name of social justice conceded that America and Western Civilisation are built on a horrible, racist past, and now everything is fair game.

Our society has been suffering from this problem for as long as I can remember. Unwilling to stand up to the mob for fear of being called racist, bigoted or worse, we give up the premise to every fight that matters.

When we give up the premise to undemocratic ideologues, we fight the battle on their terms.

When our leaders are unwilling (or unable) to articulate issues honestly and accurately, society loses.

Foundational values were lost under the slogans of “Love is Love” when the right to love had nothing to do with it.

We’re left fighting against “a woman’s right to choose” when we should have made them fight against a baby’s right to live.

We tried to appease them on Black Lives Matter, now you’ll be called racist if you point out that black murders in the US are overwhelmingly intra-racial, or that an Indigenous Australian is less likely to die in custody than a non-Indigenous Australian.

Too many times the premise is forfeited in the hope of appeasing radical left-wing movements, and the race is lost before the bullet has left the starter’s gun.

Fair and honest truth is rarely found in a baying mob, and there is nothing to do that will appease them.

We need brave leaders who will assert the truth, and we need to stand behind them.

We need to take control of the fight early, and we need to be ruthless about spreading the truth, even if it is unpopular.

This isn’t about social justice anymore. They tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass.

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