Protesters (if you want to call them that) have successfully removed two statues from the Wisconsin state capitol, but now that those monuments are gone, student activists in Madison are bored and looking for something new and shiny to destroy. Well, they needed to look no further than the handsome statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands proudly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While it may seem strange, on a crusade against racism, to target the American president who did more for black people than anyone else in history, this is hardly the first time the woke mob has ventured outside the constraints of logic.
As far as university students are concerned, Lincoln’s legacy doesn’t end with the emancipation of slaves.
“He was also very publicly anti-Black,” said Nalah McWhorter, the president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union. “Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black. He said a lot in his presidential campaigns. His fourth presidential campaign speech, he said that he believes there should be an inferior and superior, and he believes white people should be the superior race.”
So, to be clear, McWhorter is not wrong about the Lincoln quote. Here it is in full context from a 1858 presidential debate:
I will say then that 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, [applause]—that 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 living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the 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.
That sounds jarring and terrible to modern ears, of course, but have we lost all capacity for reason, logic, and context? Does anyone believe that Lincoln was radically racist in 1858? No, what Nalah McWhorter and her fellow travelers don’t understand is that Lincoln’s position – that blacks were inferior but must not be subjugated as possessions – was already a radically anti-racist position at the time.
Look what he said next: “I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.”
Never seen such a person. We have no doubt that Lincoln was telling the gospel truth. Not to be too crude about it, but it would be like running into someone in 2020 who thinks dolphins should vote and own property. It was a completely different world back then, and we can’t make the tragic mistake of transporting our modern beliefs to 1858 and then holding people accountable for things they couldn’t possibly have believed at the time. Isn’t the fact that Lincoln freed the slaves more than enough to outweigh pretty much everything else?
But we’re talking about a generation that acts like every problematic tweet calls for the complete destruction of a person’s life, so why should we be surprised?