What the chess community teaches us about lionization

Photo credit: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Alexander Alekhine–Photo credit: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

I wanted to address a question that was raised by King and others on another thread, namely the question of when and how it is appropriate to lionize an historical figure. Much of this conversation comes from the debates surrounding the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, a U.S. President who achieved many great things but who, by modern standards, was a racist. Is it proper to have statues, buildings, and schools erected in his honor? He was not all that racist by the standards of his own time (contrary to the narratives that some “activists” are using in an effort to rewrite history right now), but by modern standards, he most definitely is. Do we take down the symbols? I think our answer can be found in the way chess players lionize former world champions.

I’ve been recently reading Jeremy Silman’s The Amateur’s Mind, which I won when I took first place in a recent quads tournament. Silman is widely regarded as one of the top chess writers in the world, if not THE top writer–not only is he a great player (and International Master), but he’s also a phenomenal writer who understands history and psychology. One of Silman’s observations is that many amateur chess players love attacking combinations, and “this attraction makes us want to emulate the great attacking masters and, as a result, we study games by Kasparov, Alekhine, and Tal.” (p.61) What’s interesting is that Jeremy Silman is Jewish, and he mentions Alexander Alekhine, who was an anti-Semite. But get this: not only does Silman mention Alekhine, but he also names Alekhine as his biggest chess hero.

Something like, “What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?” seems more pertinent. Of my childhood chess heroes (Lasker, Fischer, and Alekhine), I would have to say that Alexander Alekhine’s amazing games, and his notes, played the biggest role in addicting me to chess.

So here we have one of the most prominent chess writers in the a world, a Jewish American, idolizing a former World Champion who hated Jews. Silman put aside his emotion to properly give credit where credit is due. And he’s not the only Jewish person in chess who thinks like this.

Keep in mind that Alekhine wasn’t just anti-Semitic. He cooperated with the Nazis, and although he later tried to say that his cooperation was coerced, evidence looks pretty damning that it was a true reflection of how he felt towards the Jews. For example, he was quoted by several sources as saying that Jews couldn’t play good chess because they were all about defense, rather than attack. He characterized his defeat of Max Euwe for the World Championship as “a triumph over the Jewish conspiracy.”

Yet Jewish chess players all over the world continue to show him respect.

Bobby Fischer, perhaps the most famous chess player of all time, was another anti-Semite (despite being Jewish himself) who used his stature as World Champion to attack the Jews. Still, Jewish chess players all over the world continue to show him respect.

As King mentions in his comment, every leader has flaws:

I think the question is, how can we balance those icons of the past who’s image we have raised into the pantheon of the honored dead? There remains a very human tendency to lionize our heroes (particularly posthumously). We overlook their faults, we exaggerate their virtues, and we shut down all voices of descent or criticism of them. This happens whether we are talking about Martin Luther King, Christopher Columbus, or Mahatma Gandhi.

So, once all the 3-story bronze statues with arms folded have been raised in the public squares, at what point after the cooling of ‘god worshipping’ fervor can we begin to look at these people as fallible again, and not as demigods? Because that is hard to do when they are 5x life size, towering over us on pedestals? People become angry that you are challenging the gods of secular humanism. They want them to say as gods.

Is it possible, after the fact, to say things like:

– MLK was great with Black Civil Rights but was a terrible husband!.
– Woodrow Wilson was great politician but was also a terrible racist!
– Gandhi was amazing at freeing India, but slept naked with 13 year old girls.

And what if we would have found out about about Bill Cosby’s raping ways after he passed away? Should we object to his honors being stripped of him? Was he just a product of a world where men were much more in control?

Is it possible to un-lionize these icons and bring them back to life size? Or must they forever tower over us because people were nostalgic and emotional about them in the years after their deaths? Let’s face it, if we keep the current murals, statues, and memorials, it will be very hard to ever see these figures as real people ever again.

– See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/11/removing-woodrow-wilson/#comment-318179

These are great points that I want to address in a bit. But back to Alekhine…

If you look at Alekhine’s games, the ideas are quite amazing. He is one of the pioneers of hypermodern thinking (controlling the center from the wings). He either invented or popularized Alekhine’s Defense, which is named after him because of his success with the opening. His tactical ability was legendary. He had an amazing ability to come up with attacking ideas and to hunt down the enemy king. If I remember correctly, Alekhine was one of the first players to promote physical exercise as a means to increase one’s ability to concentrate and play great chess. If you look at modern day chess players, they all work out and are in great physical condition, in part because of Alekhine’s influence.

Fischer’s legacy was even bigger. With Fischer’s 1972 match over Spassky, he brought chess into the geopolitical realm. He was one of the first to emphasize great opening preparation, and he is famous for his demonstration of the power of bishops over knights. Fischer was strong in all aspects of the game, from the opening to the middlegame to the endgame. He became the top chess player in the world, even though he was raised by a single mother in a country where chess wasn’t so popular. He revolutionized the sport by inventing Fischer-random and increment clocks that made the game more exciting.

Today, chess players all over the world continue to venerate these two giants.

The bottom line is that greatness rarely comes in the exact form that we want. Human beings are flawed. If Jeremy Silman, in his younger years, decided that he simply wasn’t going to study Alexander Alekhine’s games because “Jewish Lives Matter,” he might not have ever become an International Master. If Martin Luther King decided that he wasn’t going to study Gandhi since Gandhi didn’t think too highly of black people, he might have been unable to lead the Civil Rights Movement. I myself have studied Hegel, even though Hegel said that Chinese people would never learn from history. If you take everything personally and are unable to separate a person’s achievement from his flaws, you’ll never be able to learn from anyone. Everyone has flaws.

Now of course there are problems when one’s personal life comes in direct conflict with one’s achievements. Bill Cosby’s greatest claim to fame is his portrayal of a loving dad on the Cosby show. If allegations that he is a serial rapist are true, then yes, he should be removed as a symbol of a loving dad–because that’s WHY we would venerate him, and the image of a loving dad doesn’t work if the icon is a real-life serial rapist. We shouldn’t herald Jim Bakker as a great example of Christian love, since his sex scandal flies in direct opposition to what he preached–it doesn’t matter how many people his ministry reached. We can’t venerate Michael Brown because he wasn’t the innocent victim that people in the BLM movement say he was; he was killed while trying to criminally grab a cop’s gun.

These personal-political conflicts must also take into account the standards of the time. Abraham Lincoln was a racist, but compared to what was socially acceptable at the time, he wasn’t so bad. Nor was Woodrow Wilson. Socrates most likely slept with young boys, but that’s what lots of older Greek guys did back then.

Fortunately, this doesn’t affect most of our heroes. Even though Michael Jackson was most likely a child molester, one cannot understate what he meant to the music industry–not only did he come up with beats and tunes that still affect most living Americans today, he was the first mainstream black musical act, which is really amazing giving the history of Motown.  If there are figures in music who deserves lionization, Michael Jackson has to be on the list. You can’t take that away from him. Similarly, you can’t take away Jack Welch’s ability to run a company, Mike Tyson’s ability to beat the crap out of people, Tiger Woods’s ability to hit a golf ball, Martin Luther King’s ability to fight and achieve equal rights, or James Watson’s ability to discover scientific phenomena. You can talk about their personal beliefs and weaknesses, but unless their actions directly affect the work for which we venerate them, their actions shouldn’t influence whether we venerate them. Mike Tyson might bite ears, but if you want to see how to throw a perfect left hook, he’s your man. Tiger might have cheated on Elin, but if you want to see how golf is supposed to be played, check out his games, not his personal life. Martin Luther King may have been a philanderer, but if you’re interested in a civil rights movement, that’s a separate issue. James Watson may be racist, but if you want to learn how to think like a scientist and create ideas that help millions of people, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be someone to look up to.

In closing, I would say that today’s PC climate of looking for a reason to be offended is harming us. I’m not asking people to become unemotional, but if your emotions are ruining your understanding of history and historical achievement, then it’s probably time to dial it back. Appreciate our heroes for what they achieved; don’t let their flaws represent the whole person. Doing so is not only a distortion of history, but also an obstacle in moving forward and developing the talents of our young people today. If adults cave in to the emotional and often illogical protests that are taking place on college campuses around the country, in the end we all lose.

217 thoughts on “What the chess community teaches us about lionization

  1. Using examples from chess takes a lot of the punch away from the point. What harm could an anti-semitic Nazi loving chess lover do?

    On the other hand, what harm from an avowedly racist political leader with mass support and the willingness to bend the state to such an prejudice?

    I think we will judge people differently just because of the amount of influence they can muster.

    I’ve read a very moving and sorrowful article the other day about one person’s grandfather who lost his position in the government service – a position he worked hard to get and struggled against the odds for – and was subsequently shuffled from one menial assignment and posting to another, the same era that Woodrow Wilson ascended to the presidency. Stories like that should never be forgotten, although sadly I myself have forgotten the link or where I read it.

    Woodrow Wilson himself is dead. The idea is alive but it is kept alive by people. People with an interest – a self-interest – in promoting his political hagiographies. Instead of removing every icon and statue dedicated to him, I would prefer if they were accompanied with notes, testimonials and critical writings of the harm he caused because of his prejudices and acts.

    When enough people are able to assess his character and leadership, then the idea of this political saint will die. Perhaps we will even get better leaders because more people want them.

  2. Sengge,

    Thanks for your comment! For a moment I thought I expended all that energy and no one was reading. So thanks!

    Here’s the article you’re talking about:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/opinion/what-woodrow-wilson-cost-my-grandfather.html

    I’d say that you have to measure a person by his historical context. Sure, Wilson rolled back some gains, but it wasn’t as if his racist views were extraordinary by comparison with most Southern men of his time. It wasn’t as if he was rolling back the gains from the Civil Rights Movement, because the Civil Rights Movement hadn’t yet even started. Putting this into context, Wilson served from 1913-1921. He basically served 49 years after the Civil War, and 40 years before the Civil Rights Movement–almost at it’s halfway point. Between Wilson and Kennedy, there were 6 other presidents, one of whom was FDR who served four terms–and was a racist himself.

    Actually, FDR is a great example too. He put lots of innocent Japanese Americans, including women and children, in prisons. In fact, just about 100% of the people he incarcerated in the internment camps were innocent. These people were basically stripped of their homes and livelihoods. Sure, we should comment on this whenever we talk of FDR. But does it negate his leadership during World War II? Does it negate the fact that he presided over the country at the exact time that the U.S. became a military and economic superpower?

    I think my main point is that black students can also learn from Woodrow Wilson. We can acknowledge his faults and flaws and (even) crimes, but the guy did some great things too–things that people of all races can emulate and/or learn from. Every “hero” is going to be like that.

  3. The concern over Princeton’s adoration for Woodrow Wilson or Yale’s exultation of John C. Calhoun does not involve some unconsidered desire to evaluate historical figures by modern moral and political standards. It does not matter if Wilson or Calhoun or F.D.R. were or were not exceptional racists for their times.

    The relevant point student activists raise in relation to these figures argues that the universities these students support with their attendance and tuition dollars should consider what their exultation of certain historical figures costs members of the student body whose people suffered from these figures’ decisions. It’s not about erasing the past from public consumption: it’s about challenging fellow citizens in the present to recognize how yesteryear’s White supremacists demonstrably harmed people of color in ways that still affect everyone today.

    Really, the argument that “Black students can learn from Woodrow Wilson” presents an overly simplistic platitude that does not address activist concerns or their conservative detractors. Black students already know that during Wilson’s tenure as President, lynch law ruled their ancestors. The point is that institutional support for Wilson’s life and legacy by Princeton University arguably sublimates discussion of his racist political positions in favor of his internationalism.

    In essence, Princeton, and other institutions have already chosen to remember what they like about Woodrow Wilson and other historical racists, and this general forgetfulness about the White supremacy Wilson, Calhoun, F.D.R., and other historical figures promoted in their times cannot go unexamined if logic and reason rules our patriotism. When detractors ask Black students and other people of color to quiet their protests about institutional support for racists, they ask Black students to remain silent about social structures that oppress them, to comply with a national forgetfulness that casts racism as the result of individual bad actors, not the result of legal systems and economic theft enacted and maintained by successive American generations to benefit certain groups, and to harm others.

    If we believe in free speech for all, people shouldn’t expect Black kids to muzzle themselves for other groups’ benefit.

    Black people are asked to respect speech ideals robust enough to tolerate Blackface costumes, but too withered to handle anti-Wilson protests. Black student activists are “cry-bullies” too sensitive to handle basic free speech in our democratic republic, but when they exercise their free speech rights and question the silence that normally accompanies institutional love of Great White Men, then their protests are too deafening and threatening for everyone else.

    It’s ridiculous: students of color all over the country are doing exactly what college students are supposed to do — question the logic of their age. Today, for many, that logic has no space for Black Lives Matter protests, outrage over campus hostility to students of color, or anything that publicly reminds the White mainstream that people of color do not benefit from today’s status quo.

    Disagree with the students all you like, but deal with their actual contention: the modern corporate university cannot both highlight the successful careers of unabashed racists like Woodrow Wilson and pretend to offer (for a hefty fee) students of color a welcoming, healthy learning environment in which they’ve every opportunity to thrive just like their White classmates. BigWOWO, your post does not address why students might focus on Woodrow Wilson’s legacy, and it should.

  4. As far as the students bringing attention to the problem I see that as a good thing, where they ultimately want to take it is a different question. One can fight white supremacy, but there comes a point when you must try creating something. You can have yourself a revolution, but unless you transition to the phase of institution building it will only lead to disaster.

    You can see examples of this from the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Columbian Revolution. The French took an idea to an extreme and it caved in on itself. Bolivar gave a heroic effort in the Columbian Revolution, but there were too many people self-interested in their own personal gain. In the American Revolution the institution building was spread through the efforts of a number of the founding fathers. What it takes to fight is different from what it takes to build. One cannot forget the saying “what got you here is not going to get you there.”

    The students can do whatever they want. I am not going to say they should be silent. I will just say I have reservations about their ability to get what they fundamentally create, because they are framing the issue the wrong way.

  5. Meaning to comment on this for a while. Though I respect the sentiments of some of the Black students, I feel it is becoming just symbolic at best and probably hypocritical like the affirmative action policies.

    Hypocritical because Woodrow Wilson’s name is in those institutions for the positive role he played not for being a racist. Possibly improving Princeton. The Black students at Princeton are benefiting by getting an education at a coveted college. So, when they want to remove Wilson’s name completely from Princeton, how can they continue to be associated with that place that benefited from Wilson’s effort. Are they going to demand rolling back whatever positives Wilson brought?

    Like the affirmative action policies, it just seems symbolic. Take the demands at Amherst. Students are decrying how that college was built on stolen Native land. Are the students going to ask their White parents to sell their house and return to Europe? It would be more meaningful to actually do something for the Native Americans that are alive than just rallying for some symbolic measures that are superficial feel-good half-steps. (Same with Blacks in the South especially. They are on Native land as well but let us slide that for now).

    Wilson’s past misdeeds can be brought to light without erasing whatever good he did. I see superficiality and hypocrisy here just like in the affirmative action policies.

  6. @Snoopy,

    “The relevant point student activists raise in relation to these figures argues that the universities these students support with their attendance and tuition dollars – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318521

    Do you have any number on how much a place like Princeton collects from Black students on the average vs how much endowment money Princeton have collected from Whites in the past (many of whom I suspect to be quite racist. Some 70 years ago they were pondering over the “Jewish problem” at Princeton). I am curious.

    I have a wild hunch that tuition doesn’t nearly cover the actual cost of education at Princeton. The reputation of a place like that is not based on the quality of education but the quality of research by the faculty … Woodrow Wilson might have said something on that. Princeton can hire and support all the fancy research partly based on the endowments. Take away the endowments, tuition money wouldn’t cut it I think. Some real numbers would be helpful.

  7. Snoopy, the simple points you wanted to make are not justified by your rambling manifestos and barely legible diatribes. You’re too old not to understand the value of concise writing.

    Think about writing to peers and equals willing to digest your input, and not just about writing to brainwashed goons who will willingly sit through any claptrap you rectally-feed to them.

    Do us all a favor and let not the obituary of your writing say “heavy on the words and light on the content.”

  8. Snoopy,

    Jman and John said much of what I would say. What Jman said in particular, Snoopy, is the problem that I see in much of your thinking. Once these students (and extremist liberals in general) finish destroying everything in sight, what’s left? Without strong institutions, there will be no change.

    To be VERY clear, this isn’t a “free speech” issue. It’s not like the case of the Yale professors, where people are calling for them to lose their jobs as masters because they said something legitimate that happens to be politically incorrect. Yes, I think Jonathan Butler should be kicked out of Mizzou if he lied about getting hit by a car, but that would be an ethical violation, not a political speech violation. I think the Mizzou football team should be punished for breaking their contracts, but that’s a legal contractual violation, not a political speech violation. But on the issue of “free speech,” I think we all support the idea that as long as protesters aren’t breaking a contract (football players) or violating the honor code (Jonathan Butler), these students should have the right to say whatever they want. Having that right though doesn’t mean that we should support it when they say things that hurt us or them.

    The concern over Princeton’s adoration for Woodrow Wilson or Yale’s exultation of John C. Calhoun does not involve some unconsidered desire to evaluate historical figures by modern moral and political standards. It does not matter if Wilson or Calhoun or F.D.R. were or were not exceptional racists for their times.

    The relevant point student activists raise in relation to these figures argues that the universities these students support with their attendance and tuition dollars should consider what their exultation of certain historical figures costs members of the student body whose people suffered from these figures’ decisions. It’s not about erasing the past from public consumption: it’s about challenging fellow citizens in the present to recognize how yesteryear’s White supremacists demonstrably harmed people of color in ways that still affect everyone today.

    Your first paragraph above is incompatible with your second paragraph. As John said, for black Princeton students who go to a grade-inflated school and are all but guaranteed a Princeton diploma just for attending, the benefits of Wilson’s life FAR exceed any costs he inflicted on them. Like all students at such universities, these students don’t pay their full ride–they are the beneficiaries of endowments, which most likely were largely created by white racists. When they graduate, they receive the prestige created by leaders like Wilson who turned Princeton into the powerhouse that it is today. Plus, in addition to all this, black students as a group at Princeton benefit from race-based admissions policies that give them preference over others, a policy which, believe it or not, came about in large part because Wilson’s progressivism helped to create empathy for the underrepresented. As John said, once the facts are out in the open, it seems like a lot of hypocrisy.

    I’m not against these people speaking their mind. But that doesn’t mean that I support their misguided efforts. It’s not just bad for Princeton. It’s bad for these protesters as well. Wilson was more or less the quintessential Princeton man of his time. He strengthened the institutions that he led, unlike these protesters. Yeah, he’s not perfect. But who among us is?

    Let me ask this, Snoopy: Do you see a problem with an American Jew like Jeremy Silman learning from and lionizing Alexander Alekhine? If Silman can learn from Alekhine, why is it overly simplistic for me to say that black students can learn from Woodrow Wilson?

  9. A simple question will determine your eligibility to preach such a message, Byron:

    What have you lost as a result of political action?

    If you can’t answer this question, then you’re also ineligible to preach to black people or anybody what they should feel about political actors who have harmed them.

    There just isn’t any common ground. Nobody gives two shits about Alexander Alekhine or Silman. Who the fuck are they? Give examples that we can relate to and not just special interest autist cases.

    Sorry bro.

  10. Once these students (and extremist liberals in general) finish destroying everything in sight, what’s left? Without strong institutions, there will be no change. – BigWOWO

    I don’t agree with the contention that student activists of color today attempt to destroy alone. Questioning the social logic of major institutions that ask more from people of color than their White classmates does not destroy anything. It only asks people to consider the silence in which White supremacy thrives.

    I assume you and Jman and everyone here would not prefer to keep White supremacy alive, as it harms all of us.

  11. As John said, for black Princeton students who go to a grade-inflated school and are all but guaranteed a Princeton diploma just for attending, the benefits of Wilson’s life FAR exceed any costs he inflicted on them. – BigWOWO

    To agree with this sentiment, one has to define in total the harm Woodrow Wilson’s racist actions inflicted on Black Americans, and consider that harm inferior to nominal Black student matriculation to Princeton University over a century after his first inaugural.

    BigWOWO, none of us are in any position to compute that calculus. We speak about an era where the President of the United States of America understood that mob violence against Black citizens robbed Black people of their lives with impunity, and did nothing to combat this criminality, while he encouraged widespread belief in the notions of Black inferiority that supported this terrorism.

    Lynching peaked under Woodrow Wilson, BigWOWO. How are you supposed to price the cost of lynching Black people as more than repaid by the opportunity to attend Princeton and run up student debt, enjoyed by a minuscule fraction of their descendants? This disgusting comparison does nothing to help your argument.

  12. Snoopy, what is it that you want to build, and realistically what would that look like? Can you connect with me your vision?

  13. “This disgusting comparison does nothing to help your argument. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318579

    Snoopy, try to not change the context of the comment. I believe you lamented about the tuition paid by Black students at Princeton: “…these students support with their attendance and tuition dollars – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318579

    Perhaps going through the logic of your prose carefully would help. Maybe you meant to write something else but it came out poorly in your writing.

    I still think trying to erase Wilson’s name but still continuing to benefit from going to a college he helped build-up is hypocritical and self-centered. On the other hand, it would be the right thing to bring to light the racist things he did.

    Take Andrew Carnegie (or Bill Gates). He wasn’t a very nice guy during his youth building his empire but he did lot of good (that has outlived him) at the end with his ill gotten wealth.

    But I can understand some of the Black sentiments coming from a former White colony. Remember, people in the West (Black or White) still owe me a check.

  14. To consider a Black student protester ‘hypocritical’ when she questions the prominence Woodrow Wilson’s legacy occupies at Princeton University, a school with a large endowment, is to assume that the proper role of Black students at Princeton (throughout higher education, really) is quiet reflection on their economically inferior status. John Doe & BigWOWO, you support the inference that the only students who can honorably protest their condition on campus are those who have no experience with student loans or federal aid grants or endowed financial gifts. This thinking is flawed.

    Really, that argument adds a wealth dimension to the moral exercise of one’s free speech rights that should trouble everyone. The assumption that Black students MUST benefit from some form of tuition assistance is unfounded, as is the idea that students who benefit from an institution’s prominence have no right to question the moral choices that led to said prominence.

    John Doe’s ‘wild hunch’ that student tuition doesn’t actually cover the cost of Princeton education has relevance to student protests about Princeton’s love of Woodrow Wilson only if one believes that students have no right to protest in a university where they and their families may not cover the whole cost of said education. This allows for the full range of political expression for the rich alone, a kind of “pay your own way” standard for public protest that stands at odds with basic understanding of American free speech protections.

    The implications of such a standard are obvious: poor students who attend a university are expected to remain silent about their experiences, however negative, no matter the strength of their arguments. This benefits the wealthy, and people who prefer a status quo where racists are role models whose harmful deeds are ignored by successive generations. That’s all about forgetting history, not learning from it. It’s the opposite of academia, where people systematically pursue truth, however disconcerting that truth may be to the powerful.

    All students who attend Princeton and other American universities seek to improve their lot through rigorous study. No one is under any moral obligation to support the immoral stances of those who built and maintained these institutions in previous eras. Again, the focus on Woodrow Wilson highlights only the inability of modern corporate universities like Princeton to both maintain a vibrant learning environment for all students and highlight famous alumni without regard for the racist politics of those alumni.

    Patriotism divorced from history is tribalism. Student activists of color across the country challenge their institutions to rise above such uncritical thinking, and deserve public support and admiration for their efforts.

  15. Snoopy,

    I’m interested in how you’d answer jman. I see destruction but no plans to rebuild. Could you please share your plans?

    BigWOWO, none of us are in any position to compute that calculus. We speak about an era where the President of the United States of America understood that mob violence against Black citizens robbed Black people of their lives with impunity, and did nothing to combat this criminality, while he encouraged widespread belief in the notions of Black inferiority that supported this terrorism.

    Lynching peaked under Woodrow Wilson, BigWOWO. How are you supposed to price the cost of lynching Black people as more than repaid by the opportunity to attend Princeton and run up student debt, enjoyed by a minuscule fraction of their descendants?

    I imagine that if I were to be standing here in front of these Princeton protesters, they’d be saying the exact same thing. And that’s the problem–they don’t understand history. They don’t care to understand history. It’s all about emotional venting without understanding. They’ve got all this access to education, and they don’t use it.

    Lynching peaked under Woodrow Wilson? “Under” him? First of all, I don’t know where you got this information. It’s not as if these violent criminals checked a government reporting card every time they murdered a black man. Second, by saying it happened “under” him, you make it seem like lynching was some sort of government program like the progroms or the death chambers, something that happened under his orders. This isn’t what happened. Lynching happened before Wilson and after Wilson…he just happened to govern during that time. As I mentioned above, his administration was more or less right between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Even more interesting is that lynching wasn’t a federal crime until Harding, who served after Wilson. That should put things into context. If lynching occurred prior to the federal law, it was up to the governors to stop it. You’re distorting history, Snoopy. Progress would eventually take place, but not until forty years later.

    The assumption that Black students MUST benefit from some form of tuition assistance is unfounded…- See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318596

    It’s not an assumption. It’s a fact. Tuition doesn’t cover expenses. It was true of you too, Snoopy, as it was true of me. Yes, you and I both benefited from tuition assistance, even if you paid full ride yourself. I could tell you of my experience with this subject, but just as it was when I was teaching you about mortgages, you’re going to just have to trust your senior on this one.

    Yup, you owe the Man, Snoopy. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. You owe the Man. I owe the Man. Those seeking to take down Wilson owe the Man.

    Now back to jman’s question: what’s the plan? Don’t just give me a short-term plan either; where does it go in the next 50 years?

  16. Yup, you owe the Man, Snoopy. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. You owe the Man. I owe the Man. Those seeking to take down Wilson owe the Man. – BigWOWO

    Owe the Man what exactly? Money? Silence? Both?

    Second, by saying it happened “under” him, you make it seem like lynching was some sort of government program like the progroms or the death chambers, something that happened under his orders. This isn’t what happened. Lynching happened before Wilson and after Wilson…he just happened to govern during that time. – BigWOWO

    And you erroneously depict Woodrow Wilson as passive observer to American domestic order. That’s just wrong. Wilson dithered on any public communication against mob violence until July 26, 1918, when his administration issued a tepid proclamation against mob violence, twenty-four days after the East St. Louis race riot killed anywhere from 40 to 200 Black citizens, after roughly six thousand Black citizens were rendered homeless from their White neighbors.

    Wilson did not give a speech to place himself in the public eye as an opponent of lynch law; his White supremacist sympathies are well known. We’re talking about the President who screened Birth of a Nation at the White House, the film that revived Ku Klux Klan membership during the early Twentieth Century. Lynching actively threatened the safety and security of American citizens; Wilson knew this yet devoted no federal resources to protect Black taxpayers. For Black citizens in Woodrow Wilson’s America, lynching was as much a government program as the penal system: the barbarism allowed to harm Black people persisted with government permission, not outside of government control.

    East St. Louis offers the smart example — National Guardsmen were called in to stem the violence, but many reports show them joining White rioters to hurt Black people. To act as if recalling President Wilson’s hostility toward Black citizens mis-remembers history is absurd, BigWOWO.

  17. “…is to assume that the proper role of Black students at Princeton (throughout higher education, really) is quiet reflection on their economically inferior status. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318605

    @Snoopy,

    Makes no sense where you got that since we have already discussed how most Black students including affirmative action admittees are mostly rich when talking about affirmative action months back. I do not consider you, shrieking girl Jerelyn Luther, Jonathan Butler (Okay mizzou is some unknown lowly ranked school but still) to be poor.

    Its disappointing that you do not support your assertion with numbers. A little digging shows that a lot of students (Black or White) don’t pay the sticker price on tuition. Ever wondered where that shortfall comes from?

    I am curious about your college major.

    About hypocrisy: I am led to believe (correct me if I am wrong) that Wilson as a faculty and President at Princeton did a lot to make it the elite institution that it is today. No matter how you cut it, to benefit from an education at Princeton and not acknowledge Wilson’s role in making it such a top university is hypocritical.

    Here something based on Princeton University Press: http://etcweb.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/wilson_woodrow.html

    Snoopy, if you haven’t figured this out … the bricks and buildings don’t make a great university. You can probably get a better teacher in a community college … most highly ranked colleges have great scholars/researchers whose teaching abilities are not the highlight of their of achievement … some of the ethnic studies and higher education departments clearly lack in rigor.

  18. No matter how you cut it, to benefit from an education at Princeton and not acknowledge Wilson’s role in making it such a top university is hypocritical. – John Doe

    No one’s trying to avoid acknowledging Wilson’s career, including his tenure at Princeton. Students request full acknowledgement of Wilson’s career, including his virulent racism. That’s the part Princeton, and conservative detractors of the student activists, would like to ignore.

    The student activists do not tell to anyone to ignore Woodrow Wilson. They suggest that Princeton needs to balance it’s uncritical support of Wilson’s legacy with it’s stated interest in maintaining a healthy learning environment for all students. To champion a racist like Woodrow Wilson stands at odds with supporting and nurturing students of color.

  19. “No one’s trying to avoid acknowledging Wilson’s career, including his tenure at Princeton. Students request full acknowledgement of Wilson’s career, including his virulent racism. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318636

    Then I don’t see what the disagreement and the big deal is? From what I saw in the video, and what I read I gathered the Black students wanted to remove Wilson’s name from buildings and the well known international school at Princeton. As I understand Wilson’s name is associated with Princeton for all the good he has done for that college and not for his racist policies, so I do not understand why his name should be removed. Can’t his racist legacy be brought to light without trying to erase his name from the famous school? After all, back in his days Blacks were probably not allowed in Princeton, so his actions at Princeton were not guided by his anti-Black motives.

  20. Can’t his racist legacy be brought to light without trying to erase his name from the famous school? – John Doe

    Yes, obviously. That’s what’s happening now, because of the activists’ complaints.

    But leaving Wilson’s name on buildings in high prominence continues to unbalance the healthy learning environment Princeton is paid to maintain. Given this, there are serious detriments to the status quo Princeton must consider, and leaving Wilson’s name in high prominence (for tradition’s sake, or continuity, or a knee-jerk unwillingness to change) does nothing to improve campus climate or help students learn.

    After all, back in his days Blacks were probably not allowed in Princeton, so his actions at Princeton were not guided by his anti-Black motives. – John Doe

    You do realize that banning Black enrollment at Princeton illustrates the school’s bias, a prejudice Wilson did nothing to combat. Cornell University admits its first student of African decent in 1869. Harvard College grants it’s first degree to a Black student in 1870, Yale follows suit in 1874. Princeton doesn’t grant a degree to a Black student until 1947, when Black soldiers in the Navy’s wartime V-12 program graduated.

    So even given the robust standards of peer institutions during Wilson’s tenure, the absence of Black students at Princeton speaks to the racism of the university and its leadership — including Woodrow Wilson.

  21. John,

    I had that same reaction! I thought they were trying to remove his name from a building (at a school where he was president) and trying to take his name off of a school of international affairs (in which he excelled as President of the United States). Snoopy, please clarify!

    I’m not sure asking Snoopy for numbers is going to help. Maybe I’m wrong. Snoopy, where does the shortfall come from? (Of course it’s more than that…people who pay $47k a year are also subsidized, but let’s ignore that for now.)

    Snoopy,

    You owe the Man acknowledgment. You owe me acknowledgment. You owe yourself acknowledgment. Truth shall set thee free.

    Now I’m getting the feeling that you’re not going to answer jman’s question, even though that (to me, anyway) seems to be most important. What are you proposing to do in order to build something? Or is this the Woodrow Wilson version of the Billion Dollar Question where you offer lots of complaints but no solutions? Where you basically just pass the buck onto Whitey or Chang?

    And you erroneously depict Woodrow Wilson as passive observer to American domestic order. That’s just wrong. Wilson dithered on any public communication against mob violence until July 26, 1918, when his administration issued a tepid proclamation against mob violence, twenty-four days after the East St. Louis race riot killed anywhere from 40 to 200 Black citizens, after roughly six thousand Black citizens were rendered homeless from their White neighbors.

    Do you remember above where I said that BLM activists were using modern-day standards to judge people who lived long ago. You told me they weren’t doing that…and now you’re doing it yourself.

    Yes, if this happened today rather than in 1918, President Obama would use a radio address (which didn’t happen until Coolidge) and a TV news conference and enforce the federal lynching law (which didn’t exist until Harding) while speaking about what Martin Luther King Jr. said during the 1960’s (which obviously didn’t happen until the 60’s).

    It’s really sad that Woodrow Wilson didn’t learn from Martin Luther King’s wisdom; it probably has something to do with the fact that Wilson died before King was even born. It’s also a shame that Henry Ford didn’t invent the Tesla and help us avoid all this CO2 in the atmosphere.

  22. After giving it some thought, I’m wondering if “It was the times” really stands up as a good argument, because it tends to rely upon how many other people were doing it at the time. But I’m not sure that this gives cover to bad practices.

    Many slave masters raped their female slaves (ordered them to sleep with the master on pain of punishment or death). The high admixture of European genetic with the Black U.S. population attests to this. It is much, much higher that could be explained by recent interracial marriages or relationships. So it was a fairly common practice among slave owners at the time. Does that mean that the slave owners were not rapists? Does it mean that they did not understand that forcing women to have sex with them was wrong?

    You see, sometimes a moral person must reject the faulty morality of his times. You will find that there are ALWAYS some people—some scholars, or religious leaders who spoke as clearly against rape, or racism, or exploiting the poor at the time as many do today. It’s not that people were incapable of understanding what was right and wrong. It’s just that they lived in a time when it was much easier to get away with doing what they knew was wrong.

    Given those facts, does the old “It was the times” argument really hold water?

  23. It’s really sad that Woodrow Wilson didn’t learn from Martin Luther King’s wisdom; it probably has something to do with the fact that Wilson died before King was even born. It’s also a shame that Henry Ford didn’t invent the Tesla and help us avoid all this CO2 in the atmosphere. – BigWOWO

    In 1874 Andrew Dickson White, co-founder of Cornell University, responded to C.H. McCormick of Newburgh, Indiana in a letter regarding the university’s admission of African American students, and started that the university would be “very glad to receive any who are prepared to enter, […] even if all our 500 white students were to ask for dismissal on that account.”

    BigWOWO, no one’s using modern day standards to judge Woodrow Wilson, or Princeton during his tenure. For his own day, Wilson’s racism set him and Princeton apart from peer institutions, and you are wrong to believe otherwise.

    In the present day, Princeton’s support for a figure of such obvious and sickening racism cannot coexist with it’s desire to maintain a healthy learning environment for all its students, including those of color. Princeton will have to decide how best to address the student activists’ reasonable concerns, but those concerns have nothing to do with judging anyone based on modern social perceptions only. During Wilson’s tenure, banning Black students of their race was an outdated and ugly concept.

  24. “But leaving Wilson’s name on buildings in high prominence continues to unbalance the healthy learning environment Princeton is paid to maintain. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318641

    I don’t think I am even debating if Wilson is more or less racist than his peers. I am not even sure if name of a dead guy on a building effects the learning environment at Princeton one way or the other. But I would like to hear what you think would be a proper balance because I don’t think erasing his name or claiming Blacks own everything like that women in the video is really the right balance.

    Seriously, a place like Princeton is more than bricks and buildings. Even if Black slaves put every brick in that place, its the White professors and their scholarship that brought prestige to that place … Are Black students claiming White scholarship too?

    How about working towards a better k-12 education where talented students of any race can excel? Don’t worry about bricks and buildings. This fixation on the final outcome without the necessary preparation cannot be sustained forever.

    I admit freely that I learned more about Woodrow Wilson’s good and bad deeds due to the student protests. But what is to be done next? I hope Hispanics are not walking around thinking they literally own my domicile.

  25. @king,

    “After giving it some thought, I’m wondering if “It was the times” really stands up as a good argument, because it tends to rely upon how many other people were doing it at the time. But I’m not sure that this gives cover to bad practices. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318645

    I don’t think I want to even debate if Wilson was more or less racists than his peers.

    I also tend to believe that we have to label past actions by current standards because that is the only subjective measure that is meaningful. Yes, Europeans did some really horrible things. This statement depends on what I mean by horrible in my current time. It does not matter that a lot of Europeans did it. That in itself cannot be used to justify how Europeans treated natives in their colonies around the World. Just because every puny European nation was trying to establish their empire doesn’t make it acceptable.

    So for me, when I lionize a past figure I am lionizing the actions that I think are good not the person itself. You lionize James Watson for his discovery of DNA structure not his racist views. Though I fail to see where the title Great fits in with Alexander the Butcher from Macedonia.

  26. But I would like to hear what you think would be a proper balance because I don’t think erasing his name or claiming Blacks own everything like that women in the video is really the right balance. – John Doe

    Reasonable people can disagree on the proper course of action Princeton should take going forward regarding Woodrow Wilson’s prominence in their campus. What’s clear to me is that the consistent denial of the student activists’ claims is not acceptable.

    Remedies could involve more required use of ethnic studies courses, symposia on Wilson’s life and times, dialogues with students and alumni on campus climate, and any number of other methods to help ensure a more welcoming environment for students of color at Princeton. There’s really no reason to view removing Wilson’s name from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs negatively, or as the only possible response to these concerns.

    Whatever the solutions, they must directly address the fact that Wilson’s legacy tarnishes the school’s ability to recruit and retain talented students and faculty of color. This, along with the challenge to the learning environment Princeton’s exaltation of Wilson’s legacy presents, argues forcefully for solutions that do not allow the campus to speak about Wilson’s successes in academia and public service without also acknowledging his fevered White supremacist perspectives. At least then Princeton can claim historical accuracy, if nothing else.

  27. “The high admixture of European genetic with the Black U.S. population attests to this. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318646

    The Native Americans have it pretty bad as well. A BBC news article I was reading a while back mentioned that the Mestizo population in South America carry a very-very high prevalence of European Y-chromosome … NOT just European DNA. Y-chromosome as well … This is important. Because it points to Europeans killing off native adult males and (male) children. Just imagine the crime next time you run into some non-European Hispanic person. Not only Europeans possibly raped the Natives but also killed of all (most) the males.

    No amount of sugar coating can justify killing the males and then raping the females of an entire culture. Think about it when you live in a house whose roof was laid my a non-European Hispanic worker.

  28. I am sure you guys have read about the Texas school board relabeling Black slaves as “workers”. http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/10/23/450826208/why-calling-slaves-workers-is-more-than-an-editing-error

    White children in elementary school need to learn about slavery, and middle schoolers are part of their world history (sex education?) need to learn about rapes of natives around the world.

    Yes, I do judge the past with my current moral compass.

  29. ^ I just can’t stop laughing imagining the California board relabeling the Chinese collies laying railroads as “hi-tech workers” program. Actually wait, that might be appropriate considering the H1-B program …

  30. @ John Doe

    I think my point is that actions should be recognized and saluted. But once you go down the road of lionizing individuals, you end up with false images of who they really were. In the human scramble to find a great man to uphold, we often neglect to credit all of the supporting people who also contributed to the actions in question. And also we tend to dismiss anything that goes contrary to the heroic status which we whish to confer.

    Heroic people seldom act alone in their heroism. It almost always a group effort. Therefore the worship of the single individual is almost never warranted to the degree that it is done. If you dig deep enough, there’s generally enough bad in even the best of people that they should not be lionized or adored, but rather, simply recognized as part of a group that did a good thing at the right time.

  31. King,

    Thank you for bringing in reason on the other side.

    I think it’s hard to say how much rape took place, although it most definitely did take place. Lots of problems come up with ownership of other humans. Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson, for example, might be hard to define as rape. Some records have said that Malcolm X’s grandmother, whom he thought was raped by a white man, was actually in love with her lover. Or what about (much later, of course) Strom Thurmond? It’s highly complex. But on the topic of rape itself, I agree with you that people thought it was wrong. They thought it was wrong then–which is why they had to keep it hidden if it happened–and they think it’s wrong now.

    My guess is that back in the day, it was viewed as wrong to lynch people. But I’m guessing that they didn’t have the same revulsion that we have today. Back in the early days of this country, politicians used to duel, which was seen as normal, even though one person could die from something really stupid. For at least a hundred years after the country’s founding (I’m sure this is in a Wikipedia entry though I’m too lazy to look right now), violence was normal–politicians would beat the shit out of other politicians, bosses would intimidate unions with physical violence, guys would hit their wives, etc. I know an older gentleman in Portland who was telling me that when he was young, garbagemen would fight over garbage routes–they’d literally throw down and chase their competition out of the area.

    So yes, I’d agree that people probably thought it was wrong back then. Wilson probably thought so too, as Snoopy pointed out when he informed us that Wilson made a speech about it. But the human revulsion level probably wasn’t as high. Since no one had made it a law before, people may not have pushed as hard.

    Let me give you another example. Back in the day when my grandfather worked the ships, it was routine that sailors would settle their differences physically. You just go into a room, lock the door, and beat the shit out of one another until one person was done. They’d literally fight tooth and nail–they’d poke eyes, bite each other, etc. There were no refs or stoppages, so people would literally lose fingers, need to have amputations, die, etc. Today there are laws against this sort of thing. But back then, it wasn’t a priority, even if people knew that there was something very wrong with the practice.

  32. Snoopy,

    When you quote A.D. White, you’re finding one example of a person ahead of his time. Again, that’s a fact. You could quote John Brown to make Abraham Lincoln look bad, but just because John Brown was ahead of his time, doesn’t mean that Lincoln was behind his.

    Again, examine what you said above about lynchings. Prior to the federal law, that would be the domain of governors since it’s their job to enforce existing laws. What were the governors doing? The answer is not much. And the reason is that it was during the early twentieth century before people had thought much about these racial crimes.

    Princeton could put up a statue of Jefferson Davis and that would not “tarnish the school’s ability to recruit and retain talented students and faculty of color.” Even though all of these schools discriminate against Asian Americans, we still apply in droves. Talented students and faculty of color usually don’t let little things stop them from applying. I don’t think you would either.

    I completely disagree with you on the “learning environment” thing. That calls into mind the whole safe spaces debate, which is ridiculous. I think that approach hurts students who need to get used to the real world, something which I wrote about here. Look, I get pissed off that there’s a theater called David Henry Hwang Theater, a guy who has written some incredibly damaging crap, but if they had such a thing at my college, I’d do my best to get over it. Hwang wrote most of his offensive garbage not too long ago, but hey, I’m not going to let it stop me.

    It’s fine for these students to discuss Woodrow Wilson. But making his racial attitudes the defining characteristic of the man is not the best way to go about life. You can always find a flaw to pick at. It’s easy. What’s harder is to put your emotions aside and to see history in its entirety.

  33. Sorry, as usual King brings up something interesting that could use further comment:

    I think the days of regular lionization are over. It’s just too hard in this political environment to come out ahead. You drink too much at a party when you’re young, and there goes your political career.

    These days, lionization is something that you buy–whenever it’s allowed.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/nyregion/weills-20-million-renaming-gift-to-paul-smiths-college-is-withdrawn.html?_r=0

  34. Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson, for example, might be hard to define as rape. – BigWOWO

    No. This is completely wrong. Sally Hemmings was Thomas Jefferson’s slave. He owned her. She could no more give consent to sexual activity with him than could his horse or his feather bed. Sally Hemmings was property, and property cannot deny the sexual wishes of her owner.

    BigWOWO, you’re trying desperately to explain away past misdeeds of dead men, as if something is lost by recognizing the evil actions they committed. That’s literally all the students at Princeton ask their community to do: recognize the good with the bad, and then justify the exalted status these figures occupy. If a reasoned argument can be made to keep Wilson’s name prominent in Princeton life given his racism, then people should make that argument.

    But that argument requires detailed historical knowledge. There’s no way to excise Thomas Jefferson’s legacy from the University of Virginia, since he founded the institution. But it’s also clear that Jefferson scholarship there cannot overlook his rape of Sally Hemmings. How students and faculty choose to feel about their rapist founder is not relevant; what matters is that the institution gets the history right.

    So Princeton can decide for itself how it chooses to regard Woodrow Wilson. But that regard requires detailed historical scholarship, and in Wilson’s case that includes tacit support for the Jim Crow terrorism that stole Black lives and ignored Black rights. We don’t get to forget history because it’s sometimes ugly, BigWOWO.

  35. I will have to agree with Snoopy that we need to call a spade a spade. I will also add that we judge people from past by today’s standard just as we will be judge by future generations by their standards. There is no way one can try to judge the past by standards of the past (which is not only subjective but also mostly unknown).

  36. Yes, I think there is an implied duress when a person who controls your well-being and happiness makes a sexual advance toward you. Direct violence need not be employed.

    If I threaten a woman’s children if she doesn’t have sex with me (and she nows that I indeed have the power to harm them) then my advances to her are made under blanket duress. Even if she returns feeling to me, that response may be something akin to Stockholm Syndrome—a mental survival technique in order to minimize the horror of being powerless even over your own body.

    And I agree that the kind of lionization that we had in the past is much harder to achieve today. But it does happen: Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan. We still have that tendency.

  37. When Jefferson first had sex with Sally Hemmings, she probably wasn’t even over sixteen. It would’ve been considered as statutory rape under today’s law. Should Jefferson Memorial be taken down?

    What about Democratic party? Do black people fully aware the racist history of Democratic party? Why don’t the majority of them have problem to vote for the party with such dark history?

  38. You can call a spade a spade, and you could call a spade with a wooden handel firewood if you need a fire. In the whole scheme, it’s name is only a name. What matters is how it is used. Sorry, I don’t really read history to judge people. I find it most useful to see how people acted in their time. Sometimes I might reflect on it from one angle, and another time another angle. It is humbling to see how people with good intentions can go wrong. If you think I am a white suprimist because I cannot go along with everything you say, even if I do think Wilson role in this was racist and wrong, I sorry, I am handicapped by the way view the best use of history.

    Again I will ask, what is your vision of the future you want, and what would it look like?

  39. It is a very reasonable to take the all the good a person does and stack it up against the bad, and come up with a conclusion. It should be the basis of what should be in a good debate or at court. However I think this is the way to do it when you use history or come up with heroes and villains. Trying to decide if someone should go to jail is not the same thing as trying to decide who did something worth admiring.

    You need to be looking at your hopes and dreams. You shouldn’t treat the high points in history the same as the low points, even though both are important. One you keep out there as a shining star to guide you. The other you try to always keep in mind, so you do your best to avoid. In a marriage you should celebrate the important events like a marriage or the birth of a child. You don’t celebrate the fights, even though they are just as important in a great marriage, because they help teach. You don’t use the fights as an aspirational basis. You have two important aspects of marriage, but they are not treated with symmetry.

    You lionize people in history to help keep you focused on your hopes and dreams. They did something great, and it can serve as a model. That does not mean everything has to be admired, I don’t think any reasonable person would agree with that. I doubt anyone would say, I really like Abraham Lincoln, so I think we really need to send all the ex-slaves to Africa because he once thought that.

    The ugly side of history is used in a different way. It shouldn’t be celebrated, but it is just as important. History should be reflective and contemplative. As I said before you must use ugly history as a way to remember how good intentions are not good enough. They can be used to do bad things. Wanting to do something great is great, but it should not come at the expense of ethics and morality. Ugly history should remind you of that. It is not going to be something to celebrate, but it still is important.

    You lose something when you lose this balance.

  40. First, what jman wrote above: that’s more or less what I would recommend for lionization. That was more or less the point of the OP–we lionize people for their achievements. We discuss their faults–as people are always talking about Fischer’s anti-Semitism–but we don’t require perfection, as long as the flaws don’t negate the achievement.

    Jman also asks the question of Snoopy that we’d all like to see answered: Snoopy, what would you do? Where is this rebuilding plan that you say you have?

  41. “You lionize people in history to help keep you focused on your hopes and dreams. They did something great, and it can serve as a model. That does not mean everything has to be admired”

    But is it REALLY necessary to prop up “the Great Man” in order to focus on your goals? Because usually the designations are incomplete and dishonest.

    – How often have you read on a statue ANY bad deed that a person has done?
    – Where are the statues of the supporting people who did most of the work?
    – Why can’t we focus on ideas rather than flawed people?

    What usually happens is that we lionize a figure, like Christopher Columbus. We place his statue all over the country. We write many books about him, and teach about him in schools to children. We take a day off every year in honor of him.

    And then, at some point later we find out that Christopher Columbus captured the Awawak native people and selected the best of them as slaves, to be brought back to Spain. His exact words were “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

    Columbus and his men ordered all natives fourteen years or older to collect a given amount of gold every three months. Those who didn’t collect enough gold had their hands chopped off. And the abuse turned into genocide. In two years, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead, either through murder, mutilation or suicide. By 1550, there were 500 Indians. By 1650, the Arawaks had been wiped out from the island.

    So THERE is our great “hero!” The person we have focused on in order to be an example. What now?

    Would it have been better just to focus on principles and perhaps on people that we could observe ourselves, or should we continue to worship revered strangers?

    http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/51/34/ed/christopher-columbus.jpg

  42. King,

    I agree that duress can be implied, but I think it really has to be implied–meaning that just because a power-imbalance exists, doesn’t mean it’s being employed in a way that would justify the word “rape.” Of course it can be, but it depends on the individual situation.

    Just to give an example, would it be accurate to say that no king or dictator ever had a loving relationship with his family? His family, after all, are his subjects whom he could kill at will. But as one of Sally Hemings’s biographers wrote, the law and social reality are often different.

    Good examples of lionization. I have a feeling that Barack Obama will qualify for this as well when his administration is done.

  43. Snoopy,

    No. This is completely wrong. Sally Hemmings was Thomas Jefferson’s slave. He owned her. She could no more give consent to sexual activity with him than could his horse or his feather bed. Sally Hemmings was property, and property cannot deny the sexual wishes of her owner.

    See what I wrote above to King. It’s what I’d say to you as well, but I think you’re taking it to a whole new level that goes way beyond what King is saying. You’re denying humanity to the slaves. In a way, you’re denying humanity to your own ancestors. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m a bit in shock right now. Snoopy, to compare a human being like Sally Hemings with a horse or feather bed–don’t you see a problem with that?

    If you think she was raped, present your evidence. Present evidence related directly to her; don’t just use blanket stereotypes to make statements about individuals. Especially don’t compare her sense of agency to that of a horse. That’s just wrong. To say that this human being has the agency of a horse–well, that’s fine if that’s how she really was. I’m sure you and I have both met human beings with the agency of a horse. But you ought to learn something about Sally as an individual before making that pronouncement.

    I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Sally Hemings, but we can probably learn a little more about her. Check out this book, written by an African American female professor (not that that should matter, but I sometimes feel like it does to you, Snoops.). This professor believes it was love, not rape. It looks interesting:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/books/review/Foner-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    The (white male…not that it should matter, but I sometimes feel it does to you) reviewer doesn’t seem to like the book, but it’s something that perhaps is worth exploring.

  44. Also, Snoopy, just to make it clear–I am not saying that we need to eliminate discussion of a hero’s misdeeds. For me, it’s a question of focus. If you’re discussing Bobby Fischer’s chess, you’re doing a disservice to yourself if every other sentence discusses his hatred of the Jews. That’s not his defining legacy. That’s not why we talk about him.

    It seems to me that you’d be happier tearing down everything and putting up nothing in its place. I don’t know if that’s the case. I won’t know if that’s the case until you answer jman’s question. But that’s what it seems like to me. It seems like you ‘d be happier spending most of your time talking about people’s faults.

  45. It is not necessary to prop up a “great man” to pursue your hopes and dreams, it is just immensely practical. I wouldn’t prop up a great man, I don’t exactly believe in trying to judge a person to be great. Sorry, but you will have to understand a my train of thought, it will make for poor reading.

    Ideas are important. Abstract ideas are best expressed in a concrete way. You need these ideas to provoke certain sentiments. This sentiments are important to achieve what you want to achieve. You see me wanting to lionize a “great person,” but I am only trying to take one aspect of a person that resonates with one aspiration and can serve as a model. I’d advise to have many different examples, because one you need to leave one behind, you take up another that fits the need. This really isn’t something novel to me, as a Catholic I found the practically of it in the Communion of Saints.

    You should be pursuing your happiness and your calling if you want to live a good life. You should be trying to build something, even though most things fall in decay. You need a proper vision, with checks so you don’t do the wrong thing in the attempt carry out something good. Having models is good and practical. Producing the proper sentiments is good and practical.

  46. Well, you may be right. We kind of have a single word, “rape” that might cover a lot of ground in the english language. Certainly we are not always talking about direct duress, but sexual advances which occur under circumstances of blanket duress are certainly something akin to rape if we can’t call it rape itself.

    This is how rape is defined. Most dictionary definitions that I looked up were pretty close to this:

    Unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent .

    So, for instance in the case of Sally Hemings.

    The advances of Thomas Jefferson are unlawful according the Fornication statutes of that time period.

    The force would have been implied force since if she rebuffed her master’s demands he could have made life very hard for Sally and for her family.

    Was it against her will? (No way to know initially) But her will was certainly compromised due to the afore-mentioned circumstance of blanket duress.

    Sally Hemings was not beneath the age of consent (she was 25 when Jefferson approached her) but she was incapable of valid legal consent due to her low station in society as chattel.

    So, it’s one of those things… it seems to lean more in the direction of the rape definitions, but I certainly would not place it on the same level as jumping someone, dragging them into the bushes, and holding a knife to their neck as you have your way with them.

  47. This isn’t difficult. Sally Hemmings, like all slaves, could not give consent to sexual acts with her owner. Any attempt to say no elicited violent reprisal. Further, as a slave she possessed no legal rights whatsoever that her White master need respect. Like all property, she could no more assert her rights than could Jefferson’s saddle.

    This is all obvious, by the way. If anything, this conversation illustrates the desperate need for increased civic education and political history in American classrooms. Thomas Jefferson was a rapist. His victim fathered children that lacked the political and social rights Jefferson’s White relations enjoyed. They were property; his White relatives were not. What dehumanized Sally Hemings and her children was the institution of slavery so called ‘great men’ like Thomas Jefferson practiced with impunity, not a clear eyed and reasonable description of that bloody immorality.

    BigWOWO, we don’t need to learn more about Sally Hemings. You need to learn more about Sally Hemings. Good luck with your reading.

  48. It seems to me that you’d be happier tearing down everything and putting up nothing in its place. – BigWOWO

    This is a little silly. There’s no reason to suggest that elite universities like Princeton or Yale suffer under the threat of anarchist student activists interested only in destruction. With all respect to Jman’s question, I haven’t answered it because I really don’t need to. The relevant question here involves how best universities can maintain healthy learning environments for diverse student populations. If members of those campus communities find the university’s traditional love for a famed and controversial figure problematic, reasonable people can discuss the issue and find a solution. Or not.

    But nothing about encouraging people to recall a figure’s total history speaks anarchy. BigWOWO, you act as if telling historically White universities to put away their famed racist White idols somehow shatters society’s foundations, leaving chaos. This is laughable. That reaction you’ve been having is extreme and hyperbolic. Princeton will be just fine with or without Woodrow Wilson’s name on buildings and letterhead; as John Doe reminds us, they benefit from a sizable endowment. People will be fine.

    So no, we don’t require some long and esoteric theoretical discussion about the society I’d like to build. No one’s tearing down society. Student activists of color simply state that buildings named after slavery apologists like John C. Calhoun (like Yale’s Calhoun College) or schools named after unrepentant racists who segregated federal workplaces and practiced racial discrimination in federal hiring like Woodrow Wilson should account for the impact, if any, this continued lionization has on campus climate today. Telling people to just “get over it” illustrates only that you care less about their well being than they do. That’s totally your right, BigWOWO, but it doesn’t help elite institutions maintain their goals to help all their students succeed academically.

    Frankly, none of these institutions benefit from the idea that they’re hostile to people of color today, and that’s what the “get over it” advice suggests. Hostility. We should not be surprised that these universities try a different approach.

  49. This is an interesting discussion because it has so many possible applications.

    I’m thinking of the current situation with Bill Cosby. Given the testimonies of so many women who say that he raped them, universities have been revoking his honorary degrees and memorials like crazy. His sitcoms are no longer being aired. The man’s legacy is being systematically deconstructed before our eyes.

    But is this wrong? Should we instead be trying to measure what he might have done right in his life and weigh it in a scale against his legacy of rape? Maybe he’s done slightly more right than wrong… in that case, should he be left with all of his honors (with a small sidetone that he was also a drug rapist???) Or are there SOME things that simply disqualify you from EVER holding a place of honor, once they are known?

  50. Or are there SOME things that simply disqualify you from EVER holding a place of honor, once they are known? – King

    Yes, obviously. Owning slaves, for example, disqualifies someone. Genocide. Rape. Child molestation. Sex trafficking. Apartheid. Basically anything that counts as a crime against humanity or worse.

    Further, recognizing the wrong people do along with the right harms no one. It’s no more than historical honesty. Bill Cosby spent his life as a world class humorist, but if the narrative about his private life is true, the public shaming he’s received is completely understandable. Frankly, we’ve everything but the judgment of the courts with Cosby; his legacy is done. With figures like Jefferson and Wilson, again, there’s no ambiguity: Jefferson was a rapist slave owner, Wilson an ardent segregationist. Neither deserves respect.

    And that’s the bottom line. In order to exalt these figures knowing their crimes, one must discount the humanity of their victims. That’s what student activists of color challenge their collegiate institutions to cease with their protests. To promote Woodrow Wilson, knowing his segregationist policies and actions, is to suggest that segregation did not destroy Black lives, starve Black children, and stunt Black economic development. It’s entirely reasonable for students of color at Princeton to challenge this implication of Princeton’s support for Wilson, and to question whether such an institution could possibly provide a healthy learning environment in which they could thrive.

    Put another way, Jared Fogle encouraged many, many people to lose weight. None of that matters now, given his pedophilia. It’s fair and just that his reputation has been tarnished past repair. No matter the era, child rape presents an unpardonable sin.

  51. @King, Snoopy,

    Not so fast… I think the severity of the crime and its relation to what the actions for which someone is glorified matters. For example, Oppenheimer and Teller (especially Teller) are responsible for making devices of mass destruction whose destructive power and the deaths it caused is hard to wrap ones head around but it doesn’t nullify the science breakthrough these guys made. On the other hand, hearing about virtues of peace from these guys (Oppenheimer) sound like a horrible joke.

    James Watson is a racist but even if he were a rapist his work is a scientific breakthrough though I would imagine the Nobel committee would be hesitant to give prize money to a proven rapist. Imagine celebrating President Obama’s life as a Nobel Laureate messenger of peace.

    A pet peeve … I wish people would stop using the phrase people of color and just say Black. Both Blacks and Whites are equally likely to throw Asians under the bus if it suites them.

  52. Well John Doe, how many statues and campus buildings are named after Oppenheimer or Teller? Most of the population can’t even tell you what the Manhattan Project was. They are famous in the physics community yes, but they are not lionized. and the sweetness of their success is fairly mixed with fumes of sulphur because of how their invention was used.

    It’s not about failing to acknowledge the fact about who achieved what, it’s about the almost supernatural hero worship that in conferred upon certain chosen individuals to the general public.

    “Both Blacks and Whites are equally likely to throw Asians under the bus if it suites them.

    Do you also feel that many Asians are just as willing to throw Blacks under the bus, when it suits them? Or is there some relevant difference?

  53. “Most of the population can’t even tell you what the Manhattan Project was. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318745

    Thats more a reflection of the state of education more than anything else because it effects their lives and their economic well being directly.

    “Do you also feel that many Asians are just as willing to throw Blacks under the bus, when it suits them? Or is there some relevant difference? – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318745

    Absolutely but I think its important to keep the discussion honest given the power dynamics in this country. Blacks have among other things more political clout in this country. That is a very relevant difference that does impact people’s lives in tangible way. When Jesse Jackson talks about lack of diversity at Facebook, Google people take notice because Asians are not people of color. When Asians complain about lack of Asians in leadership position in the tech industry and academic fields where they dominate, nobody hears anything.

  54. I honestly don’t think that many people take Jesse Jackson all that seriously in 2015. There will always be some, (Like extreme liberals) but I hardly even see him on TV anymore. Blacks do have a certain level of political clout, but it’s fickle and it depends on who you’re talking about.

    Asians have less political clout:

    1) because they are a lower percent of the population
    2) because they have not been nearly as vocal in denouncing the status quo

    However, I’d say that Asians (on a per capita basis) have greater economic clout that do Blacks in America.

  55. “1) because they are a lower percent of the population 2) because they have not been nearly as vocal in denouncing the status quo – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318747

    Fact of life. As to point (1) Geographical separation and govt policy for the population demographics. Point (2) I don’t know how accurate this is in general. Seems like a lie that is repeated. The Chinese and Filipinos on the West Coast opposed and survived some very harsh anti-Asian policies. Asians on a global scale fought and pushed back Whites even if they had to fight guns with sticks and stones. Given point (1) most Asians are recent immigrants, and so one also needs to adjust for how long they have been in this country when comparing which group is most vocal. So, either way I think its too easy to just proclaim Asians are
    pushovers though if you look at it globally Asians faced and opposed some of the most genocidal White Christian wars in recent times. Of the non-White nations China and India are mostly likely to challenge the status quo.

    “However, I’d say that Asians (on a per capita basis) have greater economic clout that do Blacks in America. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318747

    I don’t think it can be put on a linear scale for variety of reasons. I mostly see median household income quoted but per capita adjusted for education level would be more useful. People self segregate (not just based on race) so how much impact your income has could depend on how much your peers are making. Second, certain things only count once. A person needs one movie ticket no matter personal income level. Third, how effectively are Asians able to channel their money to influential people who are sympathetic? Would a Chinese immigrant be labeled a communist agent for donating money to politician?

    In any event I am not even debating the whys as to what it is. Why there are less women in STEM I don’t really know but there are less thats true …

  56. @king,

    “I honestly don’t think that many people take Jesse Jackson all that seriously in 2015. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318748

    I have heard that statement before but its almost undeniable that the lack of many Black tech workers in Silicon valley has entered the popular serious discussion in a way that lack of Asian leadership hasn’t. How far are we from people demanding that Asian representation in higher education and technical fields should reflect their demographics? Not too far I think. So, my peeve about the people of color.

  57. Snoopy:

    This isn’t difficult. Sally Hemmings, like all slaves, could not give consent to sexual acts with her owner. Any attempt to say no elicited violent reprisal.

    Here we go again. You’re saying that Jefferson threatened her with violence. Your “proof” is that Sally was a slave and Thomas was her slaveowner. This reminds me of your “proof” of why we need affirmative action: “They’re black, therefore they’re poor!” Never in your way of seeing things do you ask people to consider individual circumstances. The liberal narrative, in your mind, supercedes reality.

    BigWOWO, we don’t need to learn more about Sally Hemings. You need to learn more about Sally Hemings.

    Snoopy,

    Sometimes I read your writings, and I wonder how it’s possible that you’re almost forty and your views have not evolved at all in the last eight or nine years that I’ve known you. This last quote by you explains everything. You basically close your mind to anything that threatens your world view.

    Let me put this into perspective. I know very little about Sally Hemings. You know little about Sally Hemings. Then we have Annette Gordon-Reed:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annette_Gordon-Reed

    Gordon-Reed was educated at Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. She is Professor of Law and History at Harvard, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.[2] She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History and 15 other prizes in 2009 for her work on the Hemings family of Monticello, and in 2010 she received the National Humanities Medal and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

    Gordon-Reed is a Pulitzer Prize winning expert on Sally Hemings. She says their relationship was love, not rape, and she says this after years of study. She’s a black female, not a member of Whitey and Chang (which doesn’t matter to me but may matter to you since you don’t trust us), and yet because her painstaking research threatens your narrative, you steadfastly refuse to listen to her.

    I don’t know if I have time to read her book, but I’d like to. You, on the other hand, have no interest. You’re not curious–you’ve made up your mind about Sally Hemings in the absence of fact, and you’re not interested in learning more. I really really don’t get it.

    With all respect to Jman’s question, I haven’t answered it because I really don’t need to. The relevant question here involves how best universities can maintain healthy learning environments for diverse student populations.

    You “really don’t need to” because of the power imbalance here. We’ve got an environment where a college president can lose his job because a “Fresh Prince” grad student lies about being hit by his car. Football players can break their contract with no repercussions or debate because they’re in charge. We’ve got an environment when cry-bullies can shove a student journalist with no outrage from other students. We’ve got an environment where a large, young man can assault a shopkeeper, try to grab a cop’s gun, and then become a martyr after being shot by that cop. They call him a murderer for protecting himself. You don’t need to come up with a solution because of the power dynamics. You can throw a fit, and the world bends to your will. It’ll give you whatever you want because people are afraid of your power. But that doesn’t make it right.

    Nor does it help you. For most people, there would have to be some kind of thought as to how to go forward before tearing out a cherished icon. But not here. Because you’re in charge. We get it.

  58. @ John Doe

    My context was within the United States. Clearly number #1 would not be true if we were talking about the whole world. Asians would actually be the MAJORITY population if we were talking about the entire planet.

    But within the United States, of all ethnicities, Blacks have been the most active and effective in vspearheading reform in the civi rights and racial equality arena. That is simply history. The precedents set by landmark civl rights cases such as Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 have paved the very foundation for legislative racial equality in the United States. And those landmarks were hard fought, staunchly resisted, social upheavals pushed to the forefront by Black civil rights leaders and achieved by majority Black civil rights marchers, who were killed. arrested, and intimidated for their efforts.

    To try and say in 2015 that this was somehow not the brunt of the battle for equal civil right in the U.S. would be intellectually dishonest and historically revisionist. Yes, Blacks do have some political clout in the U.S. but it was not simply handed to them by Whites as some kind of favor over the other ethnicities.

  59. King,

    I may actually try to read that book about Sally Hemings. Honestly, I’d like to say more, but in a way Snoopy is right–I need to educate myself more about life during that period, which was almost certainly different from life today. From the description of the book, the Hemingses were treated differently in the Jefferson household, but I should read Gordon-Reed’s book rather than speculating based on the review.

    On Bill Cosby: I touched on him a little in the OP, but after reading it again, I’m not as clear as I thought I was. I vehemently disagree with Snoopy that there are certain crimes that disqualify in all cases. Pedophilia was a crime during Jared Fogel’s time (our time), but it was relatively commonplace during Socrates’s time. If Socrates liked young boys in an age where such relations happened all the time and were accepted, I find it hard to criticize him.

    If the rape allegations are true, I don’t think there should be any lionization of Bill Cosby. We all know him primarily for the Cosby Show, where he played a loving father. His claim to fame is that he normalized what a black family looked like. When you have all these women accusing him of rape, he no longer “normalizes” anything. He’s got to go.

    Compare him to Michael Jackson, who most likely molested little children. Nobody is happy about that. It’s sick. But Jackson’s claim to fame is that he became the first mainstream black music star. I know this is strange to hear for people of our generation, but despite the Chuck Berrys and Temptations prior to Michael, there were no mainstream stars. He was the first. His extracurricular activities, disgusting as they are, don’t directly contradict his claim to fame. We still have his beats in our minds; he was a genius performer. So if there are statues for Michael, they should probably remain.

    There are certain issues that become complicated. As a non-baseball fan, I don’t understand why Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He’s got the hits. But there are many ball players who say that betting as a manager is a really big sin that threatens baseball. I don’t get involved with these debates because I don’t follow baseball. My uninformed opinion doesn’t count here.

  60. Let me add the obvious:

    Another variable is WHAT is being named. You wouldn’t name a school of African American studies after Woodrow Wilson or even Abraham Lincoln. You wouldn’t name a children’s hospital after Michael Jackson. You wouldn’t name the Anti-Defamation League after Bobby Fischer. But all these guys can stand on their own in their fields of mastery.

  61. @king,

    “To try and say in 2015 that this was somehow not the brunt of the battle for equal civil right in the U.S. would be intellectually dishonest and historically revisionist. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318776

    I am sure there is some logic in there somewhere but I am failing to see how all these “whys” is related to saying or specifically counters my saying : (1) Blacks (and Whites) have more political power in the US (2) Black (and White) interests don’t always overlap with Asian interest (3) so canvassing around the people of color flag is a claptrap unless there is something specific that Asians want to achieve for themselves (leaving aside all the universal brotherhood issues for a while)

    Point is without some clear ideas, Asians identifying with people of color politics will end up just fighting against anti-Black agendas that might or might not be relevant for Asians because of lack of clear Asian agendas to start with and because Blacks have more political clout. So, this label “people of color” has to be agenda specific meaning the label as a generic category is meaningless. And hence my peeve about just saying Black outright instead of beating around the people of color flag.

    Sure the “whys” of life is interesting but being an Asian the discussion is anthropic in that most Asian immigrants (who form a sizable demographic within the Asian American label) wouldn’t even be here if the changes to the immigration and civil laws were not there to begin with because why would a sizable population of educated Asian immigrate illegally to a country where their civil rights were taken away. A sizable fraction of Asians immigrate out of their free will …, etc.

  62. Here we go again. You’re saying that Jefferson threatened her with violence. Your “proof” is that Sally was a slave and Thomas was her slaveowner. This reminds me of your “proof” of why we need affirmative action: “They’re black, therefore they’re poor!” Never in your way of seeing things do you ask people to consider individual circumstances. The liberal narrative, in your mind, supercedes reality. – BigWOWO

    American chattel slavery imposed violence upon slaves who did not bend to their master’s will. Even the most superficial slavery knowledge makes this point abundantly clear. Given this, and the scholarship generations of Jefferson historians have completed about his slaveowning activities, we know that the penalty for refusing Thomas Jefferson’s commands for slaves was violence.

    Constantly, given the master/slave relationship Jefferson enjoyed over Hemings, Jefferson constantly threatened her and every other slave at Monticello with violence. That’s how he and his overseers kept order and control on that plantation.

    BigWOWO, your ahistorical denial of this illustrates your abundant ignorance of American chattel slavery, Thomas Jefferson, and all the rapists like him who used their total control of Black people to enjoy sexual gratification from Black women who could not defend themselves or their children from their master’s immorality. This is not “liberal narrative”. This is fact. This is the reality you deny.

    Comments like yours illustrate why student activists of color are right to pursue greater public acknowledgement of the total history of famous alumni. These activists ask their universities to recognize the entire historical record, so laymen do not assume one-sided historical narratives about famous figures, as you have about Thomas Jefferson. Romanticizing figures like Jefferson and Wilson lead people like yourself to respond with erroneous misconceptions about the lives these figures actually did, and the harm these figures actually caused.

    This is why I suggest you need to learn more about Sally Hemings — it doesn’t matter if through some Stockholm syndrome Hemings developed a romantic attachment to her rapist; the bottom line is that she, and countless other slave women, were raped because they were property, with no legal rights White slaveowners were bound to respect.

    Before you can have a reasonable discussion on these subjects BigWOWO, you need to respect these basic slavery facts. Yes, on Sally Hemings and slavery in general, you need to learn more.

  63. @Snoopy,

    “These activists ask their universities to recognize the entire historical record, so laymen do not assume one-sided historical narratives about famous figures, as you have about Thomas Jefferson. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318818

    Since its an Asian American blog, I will throw in my 1st gen Asian perspective. Without making it complicated by detailed analysis, the usual picture of the US in Asian countries (the ones I am familiar with and perhaps in Africa too) is that its a White nation. Asians don’t move to the US thinking they are moving to a Black country. This doesn’t mean Asians are unaware of the racist legacy of Whites. But the bottom line is in the past few centuries Whites have been the most dominant group, and while they made life hell for everyone else they created a very comfortable living environment for themselves. Therefore so many Asians move here. Its better to be in the in-group than to suffer as the out-group. I am sure if Africans were the dominant group, Asians would be lining up to move to African nations knowing well that past Black historical founding figures (hypothetically) were very racists. So, yeah Asians might know that Jefferson was a slave owner but it doesn’t bother them directly since what they came for are the good stuff that the Whites set up for themselves. I don’t think Asians under your “people of color” banner are that gullible but they probably know enough to try to get in the in-group instead of suffering on the outside.

    In my home town there is a famous college named after a dead White guy who founded it. People know the school was founded to train native clerks to serve Whites but since the Whites have been chased away, the natives have put the college to good use no matter what the name of the school is. This is not to say the natives are going to sign up for another 100 yrs of White rule to get another college but we know how we can benefit from the college despite its bloody past.

  64. Snoopy, why does anyone need to learn anything more about Sally Hemmings? Given what you argue, it doesn’t matter what we learn about her it doesn’t matter. You say the only thing that needs to be understood on the matter.

  65. Snoopy, why does anyone need to learn anything more about Sally Hemmings? Given what you argue, it doesn’t matter what we learn about her it doesn’t matter. You say the only thing that needs to be understood on the matter.

  66. John Doe, I appreciate your honesty. What you’ve described presents a meaningful 1st-gen perspective that illustrates the challenges activists of color have when presenting their reasonable critiques of American domestic policy and social customs to larger audiences.

    Second and later generation Asian Americans, in my experience, are more likely to gravitate toward terms like “Asian American” and/or “people of color” because those terms connote a shared experience with American prejudice that helps define the social connectivity people experience within their communities. This parallels the experiences many children of immigrants in the Black community relate when they consider the social groups to which they belong.

    The relevant difference for me involves the fact that demonstrably, the United States of America is not and cannot be reasonably viewed as a ‘White nation’, in any sense. I admit that the perception of the country involves Whiteness, first and always, for many immigrants. The reality, however, is much more complicated.

    John, you present a plausible reason why many immigrants would not consider the racism against Blacks committed by Woodrow Wilson in bygone eras or the racism committed against Blacks today important. They’re concerned with unfettered economic uplift, nothing more.

    The problem is that one cannot divorce the abundant potential for personal fortune America represents from the historic and current crimes America commits against some of her own citizens. Any basic history of slavery reminds us that the amazing wealth America offers emerged from over three hundred years of slave labor. Slaves presented the largest single property in America before 1860, worth $3.5 billion then. In 1860. When people come to America, concerned only about their own economic uplift, they come to a place where slave labor generated the amazing capital opportunities they seek.

    Incidentally, that’s what “we built this” actually means. It’s shorthand for the point that the American abundance that led this country from castaway colonies (1776) to global superpower (1945) in one hundred sixty-nine years emerged from a slavery regime that lasted for eighty-nine of those years, with Jim Crow segregation following for the remainder. To benefit from America’s economy, education, safety, or citizenship is to benefit from this inhumanity.

    Further, those crimes were in no way limited to Black people. Native American tribes faced extermination in the largest land grab in history, Chinese laborers were brutally slaughtered and lynched to connect the stolen land via railroad, and Mexican residents were driven from their country through force of arms. Terms like people of color reference these shared indignities, and compel American institutions today to pursue humane policies with total reference to the hell they wrought before. This is about remembering history, so our country does not repeat past mistakes.

  67. Snoopy, I really like that you are passionate about this subject. It is a very important subject. To try to post about any subject is a sign of hope, but the tone that comes across is that of despair. It seems like as much as you want something done, it seems deep down you don’t think it will be marginalized.

    I like what I think you are trying to say; it is a good thing. As I have alluded to before, a good thing is not always a good thing. A good thing can end up going wild and in the processes be wasted or create damage. I don’t know what you want, nor do I think you know what you want. You tell us that don’t care to get into some esoteric conversation about the future, but this is the very reason why I don’t trust your ideas. I cannot get the idea of what you truly want, nor the limits that you would impose on it. It has a good thing going wild written all over it.

    You seem to want a deeper understanding of the effects of slavery placed into standard history. That is a fine thing. It seems like you want be happy until only the effects of slavery consists of all history. You might say something like “don’t worry about it, it’ll never happen.” To me this is just passive-aggressive and lazy. Deep down do you not trust yourself, and want to just leave everything up to Whitey to decide? Quit going down rabbit holes, and focus on what you want to create.

    To me this is the biggest problem of the whole Woodrow Wilson thing, is I cannot tell if this is going to build something positive or if it is just a distraction? Granted it is not one or the other, but where does it place on the spectrum? Making sure we know and understand about ugly history is important, but if you don’t build on it something positive it is a waste. Building good institutions that can address problems, be it a family, a neighborhood, or federal, do not directly depended upon history, but on leaders working today.

  68. Snoopy,

    We’re not talking about how slavemasters treated their slaves. We’re not even talking about how Jefferson treated his slaves. We’re talking about how Jefferson treated Sally, the individual. Even if Jefferson beat and killed all of his other slaves, if he treated Sally with love and respect and didn’t rape her, and if she loved him back, then you can’t call it rape. Full stop. As someone who has railed against stereotypes, you shouldn’t be using stereotypes.

    You’re asking me to learn history when you’re doing exactly the opposite. Your yourself are rejecting history in favor of extreme liberal dogma. We’ve all presented you with a way in which you can educate yourself on the life of Sally Hemings. You don’t have to do much work–Annette Gordon-Reed already did most of the work for you.

    Look, I think everyone here appreciates your passion and fervor. But passion and fervor must be tempered by truth, fact, and logic.

    John, you present a plausible reason why many immigrants would not consider the racism against Blacks committed by Woodrow Wilson in bygone eras or the racism committed against Blacks today important. They’re concerned with unfettered economic uplift, nothing more.

    As the grandchild of a first-generation immigrant, I can tell you that immigration, like Woodrow Wilson and Sally Hemings, is much more complicated than what the extreme liberals think.

    For lots of Vietnamese Americans, fleeing violence was the most important reason for immigration. For most Chinese Americans, it was economic uplift. But that’s not everything.

    If you talk to most first gen Asian immigrants, values are also a big part of it. They believe in American freedom. They believe in American education. They believe in hard work, and that you should get what you work for. It’s not a whole lot different from first gen European and African immigrants (see my post on John Dabiri). Sitting around and whining about oppression usually doesn’t fly with most of these immigrants. Lying about oppression is even worse. These immigrants all about creating things. That’s why they immigrated.

    Now yeah, after immigrating here, they probably all realize that it’s possible to make a living by being a constant complainer. Jesse Jackson has lots of money because people are afraid of him. But immigrants don’t appreciate this. They recognize, rightly in my opinion, that Jackson and the like don’t create anything of value. They appreciate African Americans and support African American uplift, but they prefer it based at least in part on the same kind of values that they have:

    http://www.bigwowo.com/2009/08/black-folks-need-legacy/

    ChineseMom is a first gen immigrant. I’m sure she’d be happy to discuss this with you. You can discuss it here so that she doesn’t get banned.

  69. We’re talking about how Jefferson treated Sally, the individual. Even if Jefferson beat and killed all of his other slaves, if he treated Sally with love and respect and didn’t rape her, and if she loved him back, then you can’t call it rape. Full stop. – BigWOWO

    This comment displays comical ignorance of how slavery operated in America. At this point BigWOWO, your denial just embarrasses. Here, I’ll simplify this for you.

    1) Sally Hemings was Thomas Jefferson’s slave.
    2) Slaves do not retain any ability to refuse their masters anything, including sex.
    3) Without the ability to refuse, Sally Hemings could not choose sex with her master, Thomas Jefferson. She did as she was told.
    4)Therefore, Sally Hemings lacked the capacity for sexual consent required to have voluntary sexual acts with Thomas Jefferson.
    5) Involuntary sexual acts are rape.

    This is basic. This is the starting point. This is obvious. Acknowledge the truth: if Thomas Jefferson loved and respected Sally Hemings, he would have freed her and asked for her hand in marriage. If he wanted to have sex with her without coercion, he would have freed her and allowed her the respect and honor to make her own sexual choices. If Jefferson loved his ‘Dusky Sally’, as the newspapers of his political opponents called her, he would have respected her enough to start this mythical loving relationship between equally free Americans, not between a master and a slave.

    This isn’t something you get to romanticize, BigWOWO: Thomas Jefferson was a rapist slaveowner. To deny this is to deny American history. Your lack of knowledge in this area makes clear why the student activists of color who protest their universities to change their traditional history whitewashing are completely justified in doing so. It’s criminal that you can possess a degree from an Ivy League university and remain this daft on basic American history.

  70. @Snoopy,

    I think you are making some grave generalization because most of us really don’t have the time to rehash things that are known even to Asian immigrants. Its not like Asian immigrants are only interested in economic uplift, the environment be damned, personal liberty be damned. Its not like that.

    I think we are past the point of sermons really because we have interacted enough times here. For all you know, I might have been in this country longer than you have been since your birth.

    As to who built what, its all about framing. America was a backwater country until some 100 years ago … it benefited a lot from European innovation in technology. No matter how much cheap labor available, without technology it would be no better than a 3rd world country like India. European nations colonized and profited from Asian nations which once could argue fueled the industrial revolution and the technology that followed. Without these technology America would still be nothing despite all the free labor. I have read economic reports of how much Europe benefited from their “trade” in China and India. How much you think the English Empire benefited economically in today’s dollar from its Indian colony vs its US colonies?

    So, yeah one can pick a convenient frame of reference and claim “we built it” … so I don’t spend a lot of time writing lot of rhetoric on this question. Its not because I am a greedy Asian immigrant who only cares about the bottom line.

    I can just as easily make a case US was built on my ancestors back because (no Europe no US as we know it).

  71. Snoopy,

    It’s criminal that you can possess a degree from an Ivy League university and remain this daft on basic American history.

    I’m not sure what’s so daft about insisting on specificity. You share a lot of good, passionate, emotional arguments on why we should pin the tail on Whitey. But it’s mostly irrelevant since you refuse to address Jefferson specifically.

    If you’re angry at me getting a degree, you should be double-angry about Annette Gordon-Reed, my source in this argument. Not only does Gordon-Reed have a degree from an Ivy League university, she’s got TWO degrees from TWO different Ivy League universities: one from Dartmouth, and a J.D. from Harvard–both of which are higher ranked from the the Ivy I graduated from. Plus she wrote a book about what we’re talking about, AND she won a Pulitzer in history for it. She says it was love, not rape.

    Criminal, simply criminal. How dare she pay attention to actual facts! How dare she not drink the Liberal Kool-Aid! How dare Dartmouth, Harvard, and the prize committee allow her to do this!

    I just ordered her book from the library. They should make a TV show about people like Gordon-Reed and Wong who insist on specificity. They should call it “Criminal Minds.”

  72. Byron,

    What you said about first generation immigrants is very true. It is sad for me to see so many African Americans like James to be consumed by the racism past and hatred for White. If learning history only makes people angry and hateful, then it’s better to forget about that history.

  73. BigWOWO, I’ve done nothing by specifically address Thomas Jefferson. Here’s another example: I don’t find it reasonable that the man who wrote the following about people of African decent deserves reverence from anyone today.

    “But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. … I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIV (1784)

    Anyone who endorses erroneous Black intellectual inferiority dogma cannot, in my view, deserve the admiration and respect of future generations. And yet, some people persist in their endorsement of Thomas Jefferson, knowing his White supremacist perspectives, because they excuse his racism as either unimportant or logical.

    Professor Gordon-Reed’s work stepped into this Jefferson scholarship morass to justify and support Jefferson’s Black relations in their quest for public acknowledgement of their famed ancestor. Sally Hemings’ descendants proved unsuccessful in gaining acknowledgement from Jefferson’s White relations for decades before Gordon-Reed’s work. Her writing rebuts the leagues of Jefferson scholars who, in attempts to whitewash Jefferson’s reputation, misinterpreted the parentage of Sally Hemings’ children.

    The ‘love’ Gordon-Reed insists upon between Jefferson and Hemings is, at best, unknowable. Further, as stated previously, it exists within a horribly unequal power dynamic where Jefferson retains all the power, wealth, and control, and Hemings exists only to service him. To call that ‘love’ is a complete misinterpretation of both history and human relations.

    The actual facts on the subject of Jefferson and Hemings relationship are murky and unclear. Historians like Gordon-Reed cannot with any certainty describe the nature of Jefferson and Hemings relationship. What we can prove is that Jefferson owned Sally Hemings, and she bore his children. It is not, in my view, possible to consider those facts evidence of ‘love’ today, or in the Eighteenth Century.

    Given the available facts, to decide to elevate people like Thomas Jefferson is to condone the physical, sexual, and economic subjugation and exploitation of Black people. It is to endorse views on Black intelligence that all should find utterly repugnant. BigWOWO, if you persist with the argument that Jefferson deserves respect, if you continue to support the notion that Wilson deserves his honored position on Princeton’s campus, you argue that Black suffering is of no consequence.

    Again, you are completely free to ignore Black humanity, BigWOWO. Princeton is not. Yale is not. Not even the University of Virginia can persist with total indifference to Black student disdain for their institutional fawning over Thomas Jefferson. Those institutions have to ensure a stable, rich learning environment where all students are welcome, including students of color.

    In contrast, you persist with the belief that certain students of color don’t belong on campus at all, that they unfairly steal seats from more deserving Asian and Asian American students. If you don’t think certain students of color should be enrolled, you’re not going to give their protests an unbiased and fair critique. This emotional, unreasonable prejudice colors your judgment on the recent student protests, BigWOWO. The rational, dispassionate, historically accurate side of this argument would not call the unprovable fact.

  74. “If learning history only makes people angry and hateful, then it’s better to forget about that history. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318853

    Its not everybody …Not everyone gets so wrapped up … Snoopy just typecasts Asian immigrants as money minded as if we are all liquor store owners (not that they are necessarily just money minded) in some Black neighborhood.

    In my experience in immigration reform efforts for Asians, the biggest opposition came from Hispanic politicians … I perfectly understand their logic why they were opposing bills that would stop exploitation of Asian tech workers … I am not bitter at all but no way a blanket “people of color” label that includes Hispanics and Blacks makes sense for Asians. I have not seen anything of much relevance to Asians from the Twitter activist Asian Americans who identify as people of color. I mostly see them fighting against anti-Black issues. Asian parents are failing in raising well balanced kids in the US.

  75. “Anyone who endorses erroneous Black intellectual inferiority dogma cannot, in my view, deserve the admiration and respect of future generations. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318889

    Snoopy do you always throw the baby with the bathwater? All I hear is rhetoric … what are you going to do about reverting US independence and making it part of the British Empire … you are just being hypocritical as you enjoy the freedom being a citizen of the US.

    You really need to think carefully before writing stuff.

    I am sure Confucius said lot of crazy stuff but it is also bed rock of Chinese civilization. There is lot of crazy shit in the Bible (crazier than Confucius probably) but its the bed rock of White civilization as we know it … Doesn’t mean every White is as crazy as their crazy book.

  76. Doesn’t mean every White is as crazy as their crazy book. – John Doe

    John, I’m not writing about every White person. I’m writing about Thomas Jefferson. What are you writing about?

    Snoopy just typecasts Asian immigrants as money minded as if we are all liquor store owners (not that they are necessarily just money minded) in some Black neighborhood. – John Doe

    This is farce. I have not typecast anyone. I suggested above that when immigrants come to America in search of brighter economic prospects, we should all remember that those brighter economic prospects emerged in America from centuries of unfree labor, physical subjugation, and economic theft. Given this, the unconcerned response you suggest first generation immigrants have toward American racial oppression presents a choice of questionable morality.

    Quoting you (emphasis added):

    Since its an Asian American blog, I will throw in my 1st gen Asian perspective. Without making it complicated by detailed analysis, the usual picture of the US in Asian countries (the ones I am familiar with and perhaps in Africa too) is that its a White nation. Asians don’t move to the US thinking they are moving to a Black country. This doesn’t mean Asians are unaware of the racist legacy of Whites. But the bottom line is in the past few centuries Whites have been the most dominant group, and while they made life hell for everyone else they created a very comfortable living environment for themselves. Therefore so many Asians move here. Its better to be in the in-group than to suffer as the out-group. I am sure if Africans were the dominant group, Asians would be lining up to move to African nations knowing well that past Black historical founding figures (hypothetically) were very racists. So, yeah Asians might know that Jefferson was a slave owner but it doesn’t bother them directly since what they came for are the good stuff that the Whites set up for themselves. I don’t think Asians under your “people of color” banner are that gullible but they probably know enough to try to get in the in-group instead of suffering on the outside. – John Doe

    Perhaps you are the one who has mis-characterized immigrants as ‘money minded’ (again, your language).

  77. “I’m not writing about every White person. I’m writing about Thomas Jefferson. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318900
    And I am asking what are you doing to subvert US independence, and undo what Jefferson started?

    “remember that those brighter economic prospects emerged in America from centuries of unfree labor, physical subjugation, and economic theft. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318900

    Why so one sided? After all America was “discovered” because Europeans were looking for a trade route to Asia. Did you forget that America and what happened to the Natives here and Black was a secondary artifact (not matter how despicable) of the primary European design on Asia?

    I know free labor is great and all, but without technology and ideas its quite useless. How much did Whites benefit from Asian colonies? Do you as a Black American thank Asian immigrants enough for what was achieved here from Asian suffering? No? Well … you should.

    “Perhaps you are the one who has mis-characterized immigrants as ‘money minded’ (again, your language). – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318900

    Snoopy, I am surprised how in-group/out-group in your mind only means money. I am surprised because though you lose no opportunity to try make fun of my language (English is not my first or second language), again and again you fail in the only one language that you know or are supposed to know.

    If I remember correctly, you are the one that actually mentioned “economic” reasons. I just said in-group/out-group … Maybe you find it hard to believe but Asians are diverse and immigrate for many reasons. For me, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do in my grandfather’s village. Personal wealth has nothing to do with it. US has infrastructures that can’t be matched in my grandfather’s village. So its not about creature comfort or money for me. Its about work.

  78. ChineseMom,

    Thanks for being here. I think you have a lot to teach Snoopy.

    Snoopy,

    You haven’t said anything–literally nothing–about Jefferson’s personal relationship with Sally Hemings. You judging his relationship with Sally based on his political statements would be like me judging your relationships with Asian people outside of this blog based on your political statements about Asians (which, in my opinion, are quite bad).

    John Doe said it right, including what he said about your in-group/out-group mindset. You’re throwing away everything, including your willingness to learn and improve your understanding of history. I’ll go ahead and say it: Jefferson accomplished great things. He’s a founding father of this country. He risked his life to set a foundation in the U.S., and you’re reaping the benefits of his work. He really did “build this place.” For you to refuse to acknowledge this simply because he said a few things that are racist by standards…well, it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. You need to let go.

    I don’t think most African Americans think the way you do, but I do think that yours is unfortunately the loudest African American political persuasion out there.

    I’m just going to put this out there right now, Snoopy. You really need to stop, breathe, and take a look at everything around you. This hatred for Whitey is not helping you.

    Here, I’ll make you a deal. We’ll read The Hemingses of Monticello together:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Hemingses-Monticello-American-Family/dp/0393337766

    It’s 800 pages, but I’m assuming much of it is footnotes. You just have to buy the book. If you read the whole thing, I promise to read the whole thing too. Then we can discuss it.

  79. I just wanted to back up for a moment to the convo between King and John. I don’t know who said or didn’t say what, but whoever said that Blacks were the ones spearheading the civil rights movement is correct. In a sense, all minority activism comes from that. Nobody in the movement seems to care any more about what Malcolm and Martin preached, but in a way minority activism in general, I believe, will always suffer unless black people bring it back to where it was.

  80. You haven’t said anything–literally nothing–about Jefferson’s personal relationship with Sally Hemings. – BigWOWO

    I disagree. I’ve spoken about the facts on that relationship provided by the historical record: Hemings was Jefferson’s slave; she bore his children. That’s it. Neither you nor I know anything at all about the nature of that relationship outside of those two points. To suggest otherwise replaces scholarship with speculation.

    It’s 800 pages, but I’m assuming much of it is footnotes. You just have to buy the book. If you read the whole thing, I promise to read the whole thing too. Then we can discuss it. – BigWOWO

    I accept the challenge. We can read the whole thing and discuss, or review it chapter by chapter in Google Hangouts each week. It can be a whole new blog feature, where I review much of what I already know, and you learn that slavery happened. Sure. Email me with a reading schedule and we’ll begin.

  81. Good.

    The book should get here in the next few days. I’ll look at the book and see how it’s laid out, and I’ll come up with a podcast/reading schedule. I’ll e-mail you.

    Does anybody else want in on this? ChineseMom? King?

  82. BigWOWO, one of the facts you’ll learn in reading The Hemingses of Monticello is the interesting tidbit that Jefferson started a sexual relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, somewhere between 1787 and 1789, in Paris. Sally accompanied Polly Jefferson, the statesman’s daughter, to Paris as a handmaiden. In 1787, Sally Hemings was 14 years old. By 1789, she was pregnant with Thomas Jefferson’s child. Thomas Jefferson was 46 years old in 1789.

    In 1787, at the age of 14, Sally Hemings accompanied Jefferson’s daughter Polly from Virginia to Paris, where Jefferson was serving as American minister. According to Madison Hemings’s account, at some point she became Jefferson’s “concubine.” When Jefferson was about to return to America in 1789, according to Madison, Sally Hemings, pregnant and aware that slavery had no legal standing in France, announced that she was going to remain in Paris. To persuade her to accompany him home, Jefferson agreed to a “treaty” whereby he would free her children when they reached adulthood. – Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University

    So Thomas Jefferson, forty-six years of age, impregnates a slave girl no older than sixteen. We have a word for this. Rape.

  83. I already knew all that from Wikipedia. As usual, I’m a few steps ahead of you. 🙂

    Rape? Oh, you mean by today’s standards with our ages of consent, anti-child labor laws, anti-slavery laws, etc?

    Yeah, I’d agree with that. Slavery has been illegal in the United States since 1865, which, as you should know, was not during Jefferson’s lifetime. Sex with an underage girl is considered rape in the modern age. But I never disagreed with that. Again, please don’t do what you said you were not going to do–using today’s standards to judge people who lived 200 years ago. Or if you’re going to do that, at least admit that that’s what you’re doing.

  84. @Byron,

    “Oh, you mean by today’s standards with our ages of consent, anti-child labor laws, anti-slavery laws, etc? – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-318939

    I am not sure what exactly you are trying to achieve. It is accepted that White men in the US owned slaves. Quite likely some of these men had sex with underaged slave girls.

    So, I get it that it might have been the norm back in those days. Is that the gist of what you are trying to say? That Jefferson was just like any other White slave owner that had sex with underaged slave girls. Is that it? Is there a reason to spend so much digital ink for that bit of wisdom?

    Back to the present, if thats what most (or even if every) affluent White men did in the US in the past, these bunch comes out looking pretty bad, even if you want to use the everybody-did-it back then argument.

    I have never seen anyone justify European colonialism by saying most European nations did it … you can be the pioneer here.

  85. No, Snoopy was bringing up their ages, and I’m saying that you can’t call it “rape” based on what we now call “statutory rape,” which is what he was implying. Many women back in those days were married and responsible by 15. That was my point. I’m not justifying slavery, but I’m also saying that you can’t fault Jefferson and other 18th century/19th century people for not having a 21st century level of awareness.

  86. No one’s applying modern standards on yesterday’s villains. I suggest that by the standards of the day, Jefferson’s behavior can only be considered rape. The victim’s race presents the only reason public knowledge of this sad situation did not cause general outcry.

    It’s inconceivable that Jefferson could force a White woman into sexual servitude for most of her adult life, but mixed-race Sally Hemings? Not a problem for some people, then and now apparently. This commonplace degradation imposed on Black women by chattel slavery cannot and should not be justified by the “those were the times they lived in” cop out, BigWOWO. For Jefferson’s era, the use of house slaves for sexual services was a hushed, quiet, unspoken in polite company topic, because it so obviously violated the moral codes of that time.

    Legally, Black slaves had no rights White men were bound to respect. Morally, slave owners were still judged by Judeo-Christian ethics. Even Deists like Jefferson could be publicly scandalized over their treatment of their human property.

    And you should remember: Jefferson did not have sex with an underage girl, he forced himself on an underage girl. This was rape, because even if she wanted to Sally Hemings could not decline Thomas Jefferson’s advances. Given this, she lacked all capacity for meaningful choice in intercourse with her master, before any account of her three decade age deficit comes into conversation.

    BigWOWO, you continue to defend the indefensible. Poorly.

  87. Snoopy,

    And you should remember: Jefferson did not have sex with an underage girl, he forced himself on an underage girl.

    I don’t “remember” that at all. I remember that I asked you to prove your “rape” accusation, and you either wouldn’t or couldn’t even provide the smallest bit of evidence. If he did in fact force himself, then yes, it’s rape. But just because you say so doesn’t make it so. I think you’re letting your emotions get the best of you here. Let’s not rush to judgement.

    It’s inconceivable that Jefferson could force a White woman into sexual servitude for most of her adult life, but mixed-race Sally Hemings? Not a problem for some people, then and now apparently.

    Is that what happened? He forced her into sexual servitude?

    For the umpteenth (but probably not the last time), where’s your proof? Just saying he was a slaveowner and she was his slave isn’t proof of forcing anything that happened between them. I’m hoping the book opens your eyes and gets you out of Hate Mode.

  88. If he did in fact force himself, then yes, it’s rape. But just because you say so doesn’t make it so. I think you’re letting your emotions get the best of you here. Let’s not rush to judgement. – BigWOWO

    Every time you begin to lose an argument, you accuse your opponent of emotionalism. It’s never true; if anything it’s the sign that you don’t really believe your side has merit.

    In this instance, here’s why. BigWOWO, you assume that rape must involve some situation where a person physically compels another to perform or engage in sexual acts against their will. For you, rape doesn’t describe instances where an individual uses power dynamics and/ or the threat of violence to compel sexual activity. This explains your earlier defense of David Choe and your current defense of Thomas Jefferson. The problem is that then and now, rape happens at any point where a person engages in sexual activity when they do not, or cannot, consent.

    That’s literally it. If someone has sex and is too young or too mentally impaired to consent, it’s rape. If they have sex with the person who owns them and controls all aspects of their life, it’s rape. When someone says no to sexual activity they are forced to have, it’s rape, but it’s also rape when someone engages sexual activity that they are not allowed to refuse.

    This isn’t ‘extreme liberalism’. This is exactly the standard any reasonable person would wish applied if they or anyone they know was compelled to have sex against their will.

    What’s galling here is that in order to see Jefferson as an honorable, upstanding figure BigWOWO, you have to ignore all this as somehow too modern and too present day to apply. You have to downplay Jefferson’s racism and his rape of Sally Hemings — and deny history — in order to support the idea of Thomas Jefferson as upstanding Founding Father. You have to deny the whole history of the man to believe him respectable. This may be many things, but accurate is not one of them.

  89. I didn’t assume anything about rape being limited to physical coercion. I’m using (as I always do) the dictionary definitions. But you’ve proved NOTHING about the specific situation.

    Who said she wasn’t allowed to refuse? If you can answer this question for me, I think it would clear up a lot. As far as I’ve seen so far, the only person who has said she wasn’t allowed to refuse is…well, you. Again, you’re full of extreme liberal narratives, but light on specifics relating to individuals.

    (I’m also still waiting for proof on your accusations against David Choe, but I doubt I’m going to get that either. Whitey and Chang are simply too easy to target.)

    By the way, why the rush to judgement? We’re going to start reading about it soon enough.

  90. Why bother debating with James Lamb about Sally Hemmings? His primary problem with Thomas Jefferson is the slave-owning and the fact that Jefferson is white.

    He does not care about consent or statutory rape. It’s just a tool he can use to attack Thomas Jefferson, and guilt white people into acquiescence with.

    If a protected minority committed statutory rape… say maybe a black man during the same era… he would make a thousand excuses about why it would be acceptable. 🙂

  91. Why bother debating with James Lamb about Sally Hemmings? His primary problem with Thomas Jefferson is the slave-owning and the fact that Jefferson is white.

    He does not care about consent or statutory rape. It’s just a tool he can use to attack Thomas Jefferson, and guilt white people into acquiescence with.

    If a protected minority committed statutory rape… say maybe a black man during the same era… he would make a thousand excuses about why it would be acceptable. 🙂 – Sengge Rinchen

    Absurd. Absurd and vile. Obviously Mr. Rinchen has nothing to offer this conversation. BigWOWO, this illustrates what happens when someone cannot follow a debate because they don’t understand the history presented.

  92. ok, I have not followed the debate closely, but on the subject of slaves and rape, I don’t think that James is off base. While I personally don’t know the intimate details of Jefferson and Hemmings situation, I think that the wider context of slavery as an institution does cast a really dark shadow on whatever may have gone on between them. I mean, the slaves were literally owned, and this is one of the few cases where you can really question how much agency they had to reject their masters when that rejection could very well engender severe punishment (in the best of cases). The differential of power is akin, if not worse, to that in a parent/child relationship.

    Hell, look at the recent case of the Warren cult (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/warren-jeffs-cult-forced-men-watch-wives-raped-article-1.2381086). If this dude can exert his illegitimate authority to such a degree, it’d be a piece of cake to exert the kind of authority that allows you to rape slaves when the law actually gives you a right to do it.

    To me the Jefferson/Hemmings relationship will always be sketchy because of that surrounding context.

  93. To put it another way, it may have been an offer she couldn’t refuse given the possible consequences.

  94. Snoopy,

    You haven’t presented any relevant history to Mr. Rinchen or anyone else here. History, yes. But you’re using general historical facts to describe and individual with no relevant details about that particular individual. I think Mr. Rinchen is alluding to your history of excusing black misbehavior while harping on white misbehavior. Aside from Bill Cosby, which is an easy call, you hardly ever criticize bad behavior if it’s committed by Protected Minorities. Meanwhile, David Choe and Thomas Jefferson are on the chopping block with little to no evidence.

    Notty,

    I’m in total agreement with you on the sketchiness thing.

    But what I’m saying is that we can’t just use general terms to convict a person. If Warren Jeffs commanded his followers to rape, that doesn’t mean all cult leaders are rapists (although you have to be brainwashed or indoctrinated to join a cult). Similarly, it doesn’t mean all slaveowners were rapists.

    Fortunately, Snoopy has agreed to read that book with me, so we’ll see if evidence eventually changes his mind. It seems that the book is about many of the Hemingses, so hopefully it will describe more about the institution of slavery itself, rather than just one person.

  95. Who said she wasn’t allowed to refuse? If you can answer this question for me, I think it would clear up a lot. As far as I’ve seen so far, the only person who has said she wasn’t allowed to refuse is…well, you. Again, you’re full of extreme liberal narratives, but light on specifics relating to individuals. – BigWOWO

    You realize that the instution of slavery was not a voluntary system for those enslaved, right BigWOWO? Using the dictionary definitions of terms like ‘chattel slavery’ should enlighten you to the fact that American slaves were kidnapped and conscripted into service for White masters; they did not volunteer.

    The historical record of slavery says Sally Hemings wasn’t allowed to refuse. Nor does it contend that ‘all slaveowners are rapists’. But slaveowners who have sex with their slaves are rapists, because the slaves can no more refuse to have sex with the slaveowner than they can refuse to pick cotton.

    To support your contention that Sally Hemings was not raped BigWOWO, you have to argue that, somehow, her personal experience with slavery was such that she could choose what orders from her master Thomas Jefferson she would obey. I know the historical record does not support that contention, but since you have not believed me throughout this conversation, prove your side of this.

    As I said before, what we know is that Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave, bore his children, starting at age sixteen. The only reasonable way to classify those facts, then and now, is with the term rape. Anything else ignores and cheapens Sally Hemings’ humanity, not to mention Black humanity in general.

  96. I think Mr. Rinchen is alluding to your history of excusing black misbehavior while harping on white misbehavior. – BigWOWO

    Another complete lie. You’ve just made this up. No such history exists.

    I love how conservatives like yourself can only perceive a Black man as objective and evenhanded if he first confirms that all their disdain for individual celebrity Blacks is fair and reasonable. Some of you guys want me to argue that the Blacks you don’t like are Blacks I don’t like, and for the same reasons, before you’d view me as impartial. No, I won’t play the Sambo for you or anyone, but that doesn’t mean I have any history of excusing misbehavior from Blacks or anyone else.

    I’m also still waiting for proof on your accusations against David Choe, but I doubt I’m going to get that either. Whitey and Chang are simply too easy to target. – BigWOWO</a

    You know, this conversation displays vividly how silly it is for you to imagine “Whitey and Chang” in sort sort of alliance against people like me. You toss around this “Whitey and Chang” phrase as if you see Asian Americans as targets whenever people organize in opposition to White supremacy and it’s effects.

    Byron, you do realize you are not White, right?

    I mean, I’ve never encountered defenders of White supremacy who assume that Asian Americans are in league with them against Black and Latino American rage. White Americans practice all manner of workplace discrimination against educated and professional Asian Americans: Blacks and Latinos had nothing to do with the fabricated case against Wen Ho Lee or the bamboo ceiling at the State Department. Hell, though it does nothing to harm Asian Americans in my opinion, Black folk aren’t even responsible for affirmative action: that’s the Nixon Administration, with continuing support from corporate America and all the selective colleges and universities. That’s all White people frankly, but you continually act as if the only enemies of Asian Americans are Black and Latino.

    Forgive me, but I don’t understand your logic BigWOWO. No one pretends that Blacks, Latinos, and Asians are natural allies, but this desire you express to justify the continued exaltation of White male Presidents — in spite of their documented racist perspectives and actions — deserves scrutiny. All this “Whitey and Chang” is your idea: Blacks and Latinos aren’t focused on turning back progress on Asian Americans, nor are they convinced that dismantling White supremacy hurts anyone.

    Throughout many of our conversations, you insist that people of color routinely attack “Whitey and Chang”. That’s still absurd. Really, how does an Asian American guy benefit from defending Thomas Jefferson against history’s judgments? It’s not like, using your language, Whitey’s going to step down from the ivory tower, pat Chang on the head and say, “Good job.” If you’re waiting for that BigWOWO, don’t hold your breath.

  97. Snoopy,

    But slaveowners who have sex with their slaves are rapists, because the slaves can no more refuse to have sex with the slaveowner than they can refuse to pick cotton.

    To support your contention that Sally Hemings was not raped BigWOWO, you have to argue that, somehow, her personal experience with slavery was such that she could choose what orders from her master Thomas Jefferson she would obey.

    Damn! That’s some strong emotion! Do you see what you just did? You’re so obsessed with getting Whitey that you put one of your unproven premises into your question, as if we’re all supposed to just accept the premise. Re-read what you wrote. Do you see it?

    Fine, I’ll tell you: who said that Jefferson gave Sally “orders” when it comes to sex? Answer: Snoopy Jenkins. Sorry, Snoops, you gotta prove the premise before asking a question as if the premise is already established fact. I don’t yet accept that there was any order given. Give me proof, and maybe I’ll change my mind.

    And yeah, I stand by what I said above about your history. When have you condemned Michael Brown? When have you condemned the looting?

    Throughout many of our conversations, you insist that people of color routinely attack “Whitey and Chang”. That’s still absurd. Really, how does an Asian American guy benefit from defending Thomas Jefferson against history’s judgments? It’s not like, using your language, Whitey’s going to step down from the ivory tower, pat Chang on the head and say, “Good job.” If you’re waiting for that BigWOWO, don’t hold your breath.

    I’m not defending Jefferson against history’s judgments. I’m defending HISTORY against extreme liberalism’s emotional judgments. It actually has very little to do with Jefferson. There’s a difference.

    And no, I’m not criticizing people of color. Most of the people here are “of color.” I’m criticizing emotional responses that don’t respect inquiry, logic, and fact. That’s not to say that I don’t respect emotion. I do. But good decisions require more than just emotional justification.

  98. And yes, Snoopy, it has to be proof, not just evidence. Proof. That’s the American way. You don’t call someone a rapist, murderer, killer, etc. without proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Shit, maybe it’s the “reasonable” part that’s giving us problems…

  99. I don’t yet accept that there was any order given. — BigWOWO

    Because you don’t understand how slavery worked.

    Slaves could not refuse their masters, so in essence all requests from a master to a slave were orders that must be obeyed, upon penalty of violence, or worse. For your conclusion to make logical sense, you have to suggest that Sally Hemings was not Thomas Jefferson’s slave. We know from the historical record that she was Thomas Jefferson’s slave, so your contention does not make sense.

    BigWOWO. Your ignorance undercuts your argument. Again.

    Back on topic, here’s a link to an article from a Princeton student on the protests there. Worth reading.

  100. I’m defending HISTORY against extreme liberalism’s emotional judgments. – BigWOWO

    Then why do you posses such superficial historical understanding? How can you defend history itself with such ignorance?

    If I’m wrong, why didn’t Jefferson free Sally Hemings when they began sexual relations between 1787 and 1789? If this is the romance you suggest, why not grant her freedom and live openly with her? It’s clear Hemings desired freedom, as she announced her intent to stay in Paris in 1789. If this was truly love, why wouldn’t Jefferson prove that with something that mattered to Hemings?

    You require a plausible, reasonable answer to this BigWOWO. Throughout this conversation, you’ve failed to respond to this obvious critique. Try harder.

  101. But did he give her an order, Snoopy? Again, you haven’t proven your premise. You talk about this “order” that even you won’t directly vouch for. If the topic is “rape,” it doesn’t matter if he was her owner, father, brother, employer, etc. Did he give her an order? That’s really the question you need to answer. Otherwise, the best you can do right now is to say that it’s sketchy or unclear.

    Getting away from these accusations will allow you to step back and breathe and see things with an open mind.

  102. If Jefferson loved Hemings, why did he keep her in bondage? Answer that before you exonerate a rapist slave owner, BigWOWO. Without that, you can’t prove a romance existed, and you can’t prove me wrong.

    We’re still waiting.

  103. The burden of proof isn’t on me. It’s on you. You are the one calling him a rapist. You did it again above. I wasn’t the one accusing him of a crime. I don’t have to prove he didn’t rape her. In fact, I don’t even have to prove they were in a loving relationship, especially since there are plenty of non-loving relationships that don’t involve rape. You, on the other hand, are accusing him of a crime. You need proof.

    I don’t know why I need to explain this to you. You’re American and you’ve gone through the American school system–you’re educated. I’ve had to explain this to educated people before, but it’s usually because they come from countries where people aren’t innocent until proven guilty. I would expect your values to be in line with American values. It’s crucial to dialogue. I wrote a blog post about this a long time ago, where I had to explain this American value to someone from overseas:

    http://www.bigwowo.com/2010/09/benefit-of-the-doubt-and-our-american-blog-policy/

    In America, when one imposes one’s beliefs on another person, the burden of proof falls on the imposer, not the imposed. That’s not the case if you’re living under the rule of the Taliban, but here in America, our society accepts that the burden of proof rests on the one making the motion.

  104. I think bigWOWO has a valid point – that if you accuse someone of rape then the burden of proof belongs to the accuser.
    How about this made up scenario: What if Hemings were the one actively trying to seduce Jefferson for preferential treatment and status? He resisted for the longest time but finally broke. Would it still be fair to label him a rapist?

  105. This isn’t an accusation of rape. This is settled fact. This is obvious. In fact, it’s so completely obvious that Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, that in order to disbelieve this truth people rely on wild and unsubstantiated claims.

    This was not true love, across the slave/ master divide and a thirty year age difference. The suggestion that Sally Hemings seduced Thomas Jefferson only shows how easy it is for some people to assume low sexual morals from Black women. What we know is that Jefferson was the slave owner. Jefferson was the adult. Jefferson was the one with all the money, power, and influence.

    And Thomas Jefferson made the choice to engage a sexual relationship with a child thirty years his junior whom he owned. There’s no modern equivalent to this behavior outside of To Catch a Predator. Seriously, this is horrible behavior, and the fact that some people choose to defend it only illustrates how pervasive White supremacist thinking remains.

  106. Snoopy, if you judge a slave as having “low sexual morals” in my hypothetical situation, then how would you judge all those poor women in Thailand who have sex with old, fat, balding men 3 times their age? Or do you think it’s a super rare occurrence?

  107. Why bother debating with James Lamb about Sally Hemmings? His primary problem with Thomas Jefferson is the slave-owning and the fact that Jefferson is white.

    He does not care about consent or statutory rape. It’s just a tool he can use to attack Thomas Jefferson, and guilt white people into acquiescence with.

    If a protected minority committed statutory rape… say maybe a black man during the same era… he would make a thousand excuses about why it would be acceptable. 🙂

    Absurd. Absurd and vile. Obviously Mr. Rinchen has nothing to offer this conversation. BigWOWO, this illustrates what happens when someone cannot follow a debate because they don’t understand the history presented.

    Absurd, vile, and yet an accurate summary of your position. You do not care about Sally Hemmings’s consent or her statutory rape.

    The evidence is in how you want Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from Princeton’s institutions and buildings, because of the supposedly “hostile” environment it creates for black students, but you do not want the Jefferson Memorial demolished despite him being an owner of “chattel slaves” as you put it, who is claimed by you to have raped his slaves and his mate Sally Hemmings.

    Sally Hemmings and her alleged rape does not matter to you. You’re obviously not sticking to the same standards you’re advocating for Princeton’s treatment of Woodrow Wilson.

  108. Sengge, no one was talking about the Jefferson Memorial. In general, the respect American institutions pay Jefferson is to my mind, misplaced. Obviously. We started this conversation with a focus on Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, and only fixated on Thomas Jefferson when some people here denied the sexual servitude he imposed on his slaves.

    Your conclusion is completely unreasonable. Again, you lack the ability to engage the conversation on the merits, so you attack participants you do not like. Your ignorance speaks volumes.

  109. BigWOWO’s post above argues in essence that Black students at predominately White universities should embrace a dynamic where they find respect for the major contributions of famous racists, and ignore their hate, much as Jewish chess players respect the advanced play of anti-Semitic grandmasters.

    The reason this argument fails to persuade is that it requires Black students to ignore or explain away not only the racism of the famous figure but also the decisions of generations of institutional leaders to exalt the racist famous figure, to treat all that hero worship as somehow natural and sensible, instead of further evidence of the exclusion they have endured for generations at these very institutions. BigWOWO suggests that the students should simply get over their own experiences, to benefit White institutions that shun them.

    None of this is workable, but it does reflect the stance students from many immigrant groups use to approach the social exclusion they face in these same institutions. So we should not be surprised that BigWOWO argues in essence that Black students should be more like the children of immigrants he favors. This is a consistent theme on his site.

    It’s telling though that his argument correlates with his stark misunderstanding of White supremacy’s historical record. It’s possible, frankly, that the Black students for whom BigWOWO recommends tolerance and understanding simply know too much about their institution’s complicity and support for White supremacy to follow his advice. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

  110. Really James?

    If as a solution, you want to remove every image, likeness or name of Woodrow Wilson from Princeton’s public life for the acts he committed in his time, it would not be wrong to expect the same for Thomas Jefferson, a man who, as you have claimed, participated in the rape of black women, like the other slave owners of the time.

    So do we tear down the Jefferson Memorial?

    Yes or no?

  111. Sengge, you argue an extreme position that illustrates your misunderstanding of what I write.

    No one has suggested erasing all references to Thomas Jefferson or Woodrow Wilson or John C. Calhoun from public life. In fact, all that has been suggested is that universities grapple with their public exaltation of these figures, as universities have a special and publicly stated desire to create a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for all students, many of whom are required for certain parts of their study to live on campus with ready examples of their institution’s love for a racist public figure.

    Again Sengge, you lack the ability, cognitive or otherwise, to engage this debate reasonably.

  112. Why is this an extreme position? Isn’t this your position?

    You wrote this here:

    But leaving Wilson’s name on buildings in high prominence continues to unbalance the healthy learning environment Princeton is paid to maintain. Given this, there are serious detriments to the status quo Princeton must consider, and leaving Wilson’s name in high prominence (for tradition’s sake, or continuity, or a knee-jerk unwillingness to change) does nothing to improve campus climate or help students learn.

    You want to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name, but that’s all he has in Princeton now. Just names on buildings on schools.

    What about Jefferson? Jefferson was a slave owner who partook in the rape of his slaves, according to you. His relationship with Sally Hemmings must be seen as slave rape.

    Unlike Wilson who only has names, Jefferson has an entire memorial dedicated to him. Why not remove it, and keep it in a museum or something if you don’t want to destroy it?

    Do you want the Jefferson Memorial removed or not?

    Is Sally Hemming’s rape not important to you?

  113. Again Sengge, you lack the ability, cognitive or otherwise, to engage this debate reasonably.

    Well if it helps you to know, I see more eye to eye with King, John Doe and even you on many of the issues discussed here, and I simply have nothing much to add on this topic.

    Except some inconsistencies that are really bugging me.

    So please prove me wrong and how my vile and absurd assumptions are reflective of my own erronous position, and not indicative of yours.

  114. Snoopy,

    Whoa. Looks like you’ve got Sengge exposing what you actually said. The Princeton debate isn’t about “suggesting” universities grapple with issues. It’s about taking down Wilson. It’s a show of force. If it were about grappling with history, you’d hear more about the man’s accomplishments, and (more importantly) there wouldn’t be a demand that his name be removed.

    This isn’t an accusation of rape. This is settled fact. This is obvious. In fact, it’s so completely obvious that Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, that in order to disbelieve this truth people rely on wild and unsubstantiated claims.

    If it’s so obvious, why aren’t reputable historians claiming this? Why is it only…well, you. And probably some other extremist activists.

    Innocent until proven guilty, Snoopy. That’s all there is to this.

    The reason this argument fails to persuade is that it requires Black students to ignore or explain away not only the racism of the famous figure but also the decisions of generations of institutional leaders to exalt the racist famous figure, to treat all that hero worship as somehow natural and sensible, instead of further evidence of the exclusion they have endured for generations at these very institutions. BigWOWO suggests that the students should simply get over their own experiences, to benefit White institutions that shun them.

    None of this is workable, but it does reflect the stance students from many immigrant groups use to approach the social exclusion they face in these same institutions. So we should not be surprised that BigWOWO argues in essence that Black students should be more like the children of immigrants he favors. This is a consistent theme on his site.

    Well, I never said that they should get over it in order to benefit the white institutions. I said they should get over it to benefit themselves, the same way Silman benefited personally from Alekhine and Fischer.

    But I don’t want you to get stuck on details again. Let’s just focus on one question: Why isn’t it workable?

    It seems to be workable for Silman. It’s workable for the kids in John Doe’s country of birth. It’s workable for me. It’s workable for Ben Carson. It’s workable for most black students at Princeton.

    Why isn’t it workable for you?

  115. Also, mmJames brings up a very very good point.

    If you know that Sally was a slave and Thomas was a slaveowner in the 1800’s and that they had a sexual relationship and NOTHING ELSE, then how would you conclude that Thomas was the bad guy and Sally was the victim?

    MmJames was speaking hypothetically. I don’t believe she was bad, and I don’t think he does either, but that’s not the point–the point is that you’re quick to judge people based on race and social/legal position. Human beings are a lot more complicated than that.

    As Martin Luther King said, there are good people and bad people in every race. During the 1880’s, there were good and bad black people, and there were good and bad white people, the same way that phenomenon exists today. I’m not surprised that you’re jumping to conclusions based on race and social/legal position, but life is a lot more complicated than “Whitey is bad, and Black is beautiful.”

  116. “then how would you conclude that Thomas was the bad guy and Sally was the victim? – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-319039

    Because he was a slave owner for one. Second, being the person in authority, some discretion would have been expected. I am no slave owning Jefferson but even I know better to not make sexual advances towards subordinates that might come off as coercion … nothing to do with law or religious belief but just common sense. You don’t want to put someone in an uncomfortable situation which they might not be able to able to escape. Third, even if Hemings were making the moves, refer to second point and take a cold shower.

    If am surprised that you and mmjames are trying to come up with scenarios to defend this. Maybe Sally held a gun to Thomas’s head … then I can be convinced. Despite all these what Jefferson did as a founder of the nation still stands.

  117. Okay, the book just got here. Snoopy, it’s broken down into three parts. Part I looks to be around 152 pages. Can you do this by Monday the 21st?

    John,

    Will you join us in reading the book? I’m interested in learning more, so I’m not going to jump to any conclusions until I’m done. Much of what Snoopy says often turns out to be dead inaccurate when compared against history. I don’t expect this time to be any different, but I’m opening my mind to being wrong.

    Yes, he was a slaveowner, but he was a slaveowner during the 1800’s.If you knocked on the door of a guy today and found out that he was a slaveowner, you’d undoubtedly think him bad. But if it’s a tradition and an established institution which is a bedrock of the economy, it’s different, especially for a man who was also president of the country. I still maintain that both slaves and masters had individuality in during the 1800’s, but why don’t we read and find out more?

  118. “Will you join us in reading the book?”

    I will have to be honest with you. 800 pages of a book written in English (or any other language) is too daunting for me. I don’t think I will get the time for this.

    About the general topic of how to categorize the past, I am a bit fuzzy but I think I know what makes sense to me. I will try to succinctly write it down a bit later.

  119. You want to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name, but that’s all he has in Princeton now. Just names on buildings on schools. – Sengge Rinchen

    No. I’ve explained why the request to remove Wilson’s name has merit in a private university dedicated to providing a healthy learning environment for all students, regardless of race. Further, I’ve analyzed why traditional support for figures like President Wilson proves problematic for students of color.

    Again, no one suggests that the names of offensive famous Americans should be stricken from monuments everywhere in the country. But we should recognize that university settings require higher scrutiny to maintain safe and intellectually rigorous learning environments for all. The sort of free speech free-for-all common in online public spaces for example challenges students of color in ways traditional Princeton students are not challenged. Universities like Princeton must consider how their institutions have embraced certain students, historically and currently, and shunned others.

    But names on buildings as a debate has always been a lens by which students of color ask Princeton and Yale to consider these issues, not an inflexible demand.

  120. Yes, he was a slaveowner, but he was a slaveowner during the 1800’s.If you knocked on the door of a guy today and found out that he was a slaveowner, you’d undoubtedly think him bad. But if it’s a tradition and an established institution which is a bedrock of the economy, it’s different, especially for a man who was also president of the country. – BigWOWO

    This doesn’t make any sense.

    BigWOWO, given what you wrote above, you falsely assume the morals of the questioner will change between 1800 and today. The problem is that slavery was an established and highly controversial institution derided as sick and evil and wrong in both time periods. Several Founding Fathers joined anti-slavery societies, and the abolitionist movement only gained momentum from the Revolution through to the Civil War. The popular success of abolitionist thinking in the North in many ways precipitated the armed conflict.

    So it’s historically inaccurate to characterize slavery in 1800 as a tradition and a established institution without referencing the massive opposition slavery engendered from fellow Americans across social strata. Further, Jefferson’s rape of Sally Hemings violated all genteel precepts associated with the peculiar institution, as it was called. Slavery apologists often cast slaves as meek, childlike, and happy to work long backbreaking hours in cotton fields. The common sexual improprieties slave owners imposed on female slaves violated Judeo-Christian morality. Because of this, these facts of slave treatment were not discussed publicly.

    This implies strongly that slave owners like Jefferson knew their actions were morally disgusting and wrong when they committed them. This also explains why Jefferson’s political opponents used this relationship with Sally Hemings against him in negative political advertisements and articles.

    BigWOWO, you’ve based you entire opposition to my classification of Thomas Jefferson as a rapist slave owner on the false notion that during Jefferson’s era, slavery was not considered problematic. This is not true. Not only was slavery terrible, but Jefferson’s particular treatment of slaves like Sally Hemings was considered totally beyond the pale. If you are right, and this is a love story, Jefferson had every public to free Sally Hemings and marry her openly. He did not. For Jefferson, their relationship was best served by keeping Sally Hemings in a bondage she tried to escape in Paris in 1789.

    Jefferson preferred immorality in their relationship over other options. That speaks to the sort of man Jefferson was, and speaks against institutional attempts to idolize the third President. None of this means that his name should be stricken from the University of Virginia or the Jefferson Memorial, but we should remember that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence did not support Black humanity enough to apply its precepts to those he owned.

  121. @Snoopy,

    “The sort of free speech free-for-all common in online public spaces for example challenges students of color in ways traditional Princeton students are not challenged. – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/12/what-the-chess-community-teaches-us-about-lionization/#comment-319121

    You might have a college degree but you have not thought through about free speech and academic freedom. The tenure system and academic freedom is at the very heart of the US college and university system. Once in a while there is a news from some hotshot administrator from academic or non-academic background coming up with imaginative ways to subvert the whole process. Look what the Asian American train wreck Chancellor Phyllis Wise at UIUC did to Prof. Salaita. UIUC rolled over both free speech of a private citizen and academic freedom of a professor. In he process, besides costing millions to taxpayers in lawyer fee, it wrecked the career of person, many-many transparency laws were violated, handed over control of public institutions to wealthy donors, the list is long. UIUC also got censured by American Association of University Professor… you might have noted how Yale administration is now singing themselves hoarse about academic freedom.

    You have no clue about how disastrous it would be for US colleges to give up free speech and academic freedom to administration. The justification Chinese American Phyllis used to trample Salaita over was “civility” … apparently, only non-offending free speech is allowed. This is exactly what you and Jenn subscribe to because you have no idea how important free speech is to running an university.

    University is not a regular business though you can think of the students as clients. Except that in this business, the clients pays expert to judge how retarded or not the clients are. If universities operated like normal business where the customer is always right, and simply got a grade for paying, the university diplomas would not be worth the paper its printed on. Yes, the customers pay to have experts unfettered freedom in forming an opinion, and the customers have no say in it. “Safe spaces” do not belong in colleges.

  122. BigWOWO, given what you wrote above, you falsely assume the morals of the questioner will change between 1800 and today. The problem is that slavery was an established and highly controversial institution derided as sick and evil and wrong in both time periods.

    People’s morals do change. It’s not an assumption. It’s a fact that anyone who has ever taken a history course knows. At one time, slavery was mostly accepted. Read the Bible, and there are rules governing how to treat your slaves. That’s because even a book of morality like the Bible didn’t see it as wrong. Laws on liquor, insider trading, etc. depend on culture and time period. At one time, dueling, insider trading, and slavery were all legal in this country. Now they’re all illegal. Morals change. Right now, people mostly believe that it’s okay to discriminate against Asian Americans in college admissions because as of right now, racism against Asian Americans is accepted. But that may change. Morals change.

    Moreover, they change in ways that you and I haven’t even considered. I just started the book, and Gordon-Reed even draws a cultural line between Virginia and the rest of the country, much like there’s a cultural line between Vegas and Texas and the rest of the country on some issues. This is why it would be good for you to start this book as soon as possible. You need an intervention.

  123. I’ll have to agree with Snoopy. They generally knew what they were doing wrong. Most understood there was some irony of their ideals vs. the treatment of blacks. It was a problem of what was politically and economically expedient over the moral problem of slavery. Granted there were some apologists who would claim that it was good for blacks being slaves, but most of the founders didn’t go this route. This is a burden of history that needs to be understood.

    As an aside, the Bible doesn’t exactly say slavery is morally good. There are reasons for it, and there are proper and improper ways to go about it.

  124. Jman,

    There were slaves that said that slavery was good. The argument was, “Well, we could never survive on our own if not for our masters.” This is documented–there are actually published works by slaves who said this (I don’t remember the series, but I think it’s called “First Person” or something like that.). And how would they know if they had never experienced freedom, right?

    These days, we’re all against slavery. That wasn’t the case back then.

  125. Man, there has been so much discussion since I last posted, that I won’t even attempt to speak to them one at a time. I’ll just try and drop a few thought on some of the the subjects covered.

    I think we’ve entered into a bit of a classical argument here.
    – Is morality based on universal principles
    – Is morality based on consensus

    In other words, is it always wrong for a 48-year-old man to rape a 5 year old boy, or is it OK so long as all the other 48-year-old men are also raping 5 year old boys? If everyone else is doing it and accepting it as normative within a given time or culture? Is there anything beyond that acceptance? Or is the widespread acceptance of an act the entire compass or it’s morality? And is the popular rejection of an act conversely the compass of it’s immorality?

    Because if this is so that ANYTHING that has ever been done anyone could be justified if enough people were in agreement about it.

  126. Any argument that relies on anecdotal conversation from enslaved people is no argument worthy of respect. Enslaved people, by definition, lack the ability to speak openly and honestly about their condition.

    BigWOWO, it doesn’t matter if some slavery apologists felt slavery was a more humane alternative to actual freedom for enslaved Africans — this perspective only illustrates pervasive White supremacist thinking, nothing more. To use White supremacy itself as evidence for controversy surrounding White supremacy is a logical fallacy, not a reasoned argument.

    As to King’s point, the historical record offers useful background. Slave owners themselves practiced a religion based around universal principles, and judged their slaves based on those principles. Judeo-Christian religious and moral precepts permeated American chattel slavery, from justifications for the practice to the treatment and education (or lack thereof) of slaves themselves.

    BigWOWO’s reliance on ‘consensus-based’ morality stands at odds with the universal moral precepts slave owners like Thomas Jefferson promoted in their writings on slaves and their condition, and in writings on the rights of men like the Declaration of Independence. BigWOWO makes an inherently ahistorical argument: chattel slavery, during its heyday, proved a lucrative, sordid business, full of all manner of human degradation and inhumanity, that precipitated all sorts of political controversy between the colonies, later states, because of it’s inherent immorality.

    Jefferson understood this, even though his wealth derived from his engagement in chattel slavery. He understood that owning slaves committed a moral wrong. and continued to do so throughout his life. The rape of Sally Hemings by her master, Thomas Jefferson, illustrates that consensus-based morality does not offer an ethical framework worthy of the name. Rather, it justifies horrid treatment of human beings, just as slave apologists’ justified slavery’s horrors with constructed myths of Black intellectual inferiority and inability to care for self.

  127. Snoopy,

    One of two things has happened. Either you haven’t started reading the book yet, or you’ve started reading the book and are swearing that you’ll never allow your future kids to date an educated Black woman. 🙂

    So to answer King’s question, I think morality as a universal concept doesn’t change, but our understanding of morality does. Let’s get away from slavery for a moment and think of something a little closer to modern times. For much of this country’s history, women couldn’t vote. Black men actually got the vote before women. But prior to women getting the vote, there were lots of people who thought that women should never have the vote. Do such people exist today? Probably, but not in any significant numbers. It’s highly likely that our next President will be female, a concept which a clear majority of people would never have foreseen or agreed with just a generation ago.

    My point in all of this is that you can’t attack someone because they have a wrong belief that was impossible for them to understand at the time. Barack Obama was against gay marriage for most of his time as president; I think Bill Clinton was against it his whole time. Does that make them homophobes? If we take the Snoopy approach and judge him 200 years later in the year 2215, they might just be.

    Here’s an even better example. What about the military actions Clinton and Obama either initiated or continued? What about Obama’s drones? Might they both be judged as violent in the year 2215? Maybe in 2215 there will be technology designed to stop bloodshed and war–are we going to Snoopify them because they had the disadvantage of being born 200 years before this new tech is invented and even more importantly, understood? These days, lots of people are against Clinton and Obama’s use of force, but lots of us also say that bloodshed is necessary to stop ISIS. But perhaps there’s a way to avoid these wars that we just aren’t seeing today. In the year 2215, should there be a movement to strip both Clinton and Obama from all their accolades based on something that we don’t know today and may not know for the next 25, 50, 100, or 200 years?

    I’ll give an example from the Gordon-Reed book. Back in those days when Jefferson was growing up during the 1700’s, and even before he was born, slave children and white children played together. It was like having a neverending playdate, only it was initiated at the command of the white parents, not the black parents, who weren’t allowed to refuse. If you were a white kid growing up, these playmates would be almost like your family since they lived on your property and literally grew up with you every day. Sometimes these families would coexist like this for generations. This was the case for the Hemings family’s relationship to the Epps/Jeffersons.

    Now if you asked someone who grew up like this whether the system worked, they’d most likely say it did. After all, this is all they knew. They might acknowledge that there are problems, but it wouldn’t create the same kind of revulsion that we now have towards slavery. We know better now, but that’s because we have the advantage of 200 years of history and knowledge.

  128. I should also point out that Gordon-Reed provides an interesting economic history of Virginia and Lancaster, England, as it relates to slavery. Again, it doesn’t justify it, but it’s an interesting part of history.

  129. My point in all of this is that you can’t attack someone because they have a wrong belief that was impossible for them to understand at the time. – BigWOWO

    BigWOWO, this is completely wrong, again. Thomas Jefferson was quite clear about the moral failure slavery represented. You simply cannot argue with any historical accuracy that Thomas Jefferson held a ‘wrong belief that was impossible’ for him to understand at the time.

    The truth is that Jefferson’s complex relationship to American chattel slavery exposes someone who cannot imagine people of African decent living as neighbors and full citizens within his country. This is Jefferson’s political choice, not a inevitable conclusion based on unavoidable ignorance.

    Further, Clinton and Obama should be judged as Presidents with more access to verifiable fact than any Presidents before their reigns who chose in several instances to allow rampant bloodshed and violence to continue unabated, and/or chose to inflect massive terror and death on foreign populations to pursue American strategic goals. These are men who are fully aware that other, more life affirming choices exist, who chose to kill anyway. Clinton can no more wash Rwandan blood from his hands than can Obama rinse Iraqi hemoglobin from his palms.

    And yes — during both Clinton and Obama’s presidencies, opposition to gay marriage was the homophobic position. BigWOWO, the history makes clear that Jefferson knew slavery was wrong. Clinton knew that his reluctance to intervene in Rwanda allowed genocide. Obama knows that his extrajudicial drone strikes need not occur, should he locate other means to promote American interests. Ignorance is no excuse for any of these men. During their lives, they’ve access to other ideas than those they use to rule others.

  130. Snoopy,

    I see his complex beliefs as a product of his times. That’s the case with ALL historical figures. I’m not sure why you can’t see this. It’s like if I were to ask you about the mortgage industry or about poor people. If you had a lot of experience working with either, you’d know a lot about both. But if you don’t have that experience, it’s almost a given that you’re not going to be familiar with the subtleties or even the significant facts. If you have no experience with non-slavery, it’s a foreign concept. Sorry, that’s just how the real world works.

    I thank you for your consistency–at least you’re not giving a free pass to Barack or Bill. BUT….you’re wrong on all three of them. Governance, sales, business–anything that has lots of moving parts and different personalities–is never clean. YOU think that Obama doesn’t have to use drones, but he’s doing what he feels he needs to do to protect American lives. He’s making the decisions he can with the knowledge he has. EVERY president does this. You’d be right to say that he’s killed people, and you’d also be right to say he’s got other options. But it’s not a case of simply choosing to kill or not kill. It’s never clean.

    Slavery back in Jefferson’s day was similar. I’m impressed by the book because I hadn’t realized exactly how complex it was.

  131. I’m impressed by the book because I hadn’t realized exactly how complex it was. – BigWOWO

    This is unfortunate. It’s damn near the Jetsons out here — to fail to grasp the incredible economic, social, and legal complexity of American chattel slavery displays a significant failure in your civic education, BigWOWO.

    But the more troubling aspect of your argument above reiterates your view of historical figures as ‘products of their times’. Jefferson held complex and contradictory views on slavery, but none of that complexity obstructed his rape of Sally Hemings or pushed the third President to free large numbers of his slaves before his death. Throughout his life, Jefferson chose violent control of Black people over everything else, no matter how complex his thoughts on the subject. To consider this inaction simply in line with his era presents your effort to reduce Jefferson’s complicity in an egregious moral wrong.

    You attempt to salvage Jefferson’s reputation by arguing that stealing Black labor with whips and muskets and degrading Black humanity with business ledgers and nightly trysts can be understood as a quasi-natural state for wealthy men “given the times” in which Jefferson lived. This is wrong. Jefferson decided to enslave people throughout his life. His used his agency and privilege to hurt others. To defend his reputation you argue against his victims’ humanity.

    This is slavery apology, nothing more. You argue for mercy for Jefferson’s reputation because you understand so little about what American chattel slavery actually was that you can’t issue a reasoned judgment on Jefferson’s actions. Throughout this conversation, you’ve pretended that ignorance exonerates. It does not. Ignorance does not exonerate Jefferson, and ignorance does not exonerate you.

    Case in point:

    Back in those days when Jefferson was growing up during the 1700’s, and even before he was born, slave children and white children played together. It was like having a neverending playdate, only it was initiated at the command of the white parents, not the black parents, who weren’t allowed to refuse. If you were a white kid growing up, these playmates would be almost like your family since they lived on your property and literally grew up with you every day. – BigWOWO

    Slavery is “like a neverending playdate”. Just consider that f–kery for a minute.

  132. Snoopy,

    This is unfortunate. It’s damn near the Jetsons out here — to fail to grasp the incredible economic, social, and legal complexity of American chattel slavery displays a significant failure in your civic education, BigWOWO.

    Yeah, I know, you’re angry at Jefferson for not being Lincoln and freeing the slaves. We get it. We might as well be angry at Jesus for not speaking out against slavery too.

    Part of the reason why we’re reading this book together is because you too are ignorant on the history of chattel slavery in this country. And these are your people! At least I have the humility to admit when there’s something I don’t know. At least I’m reading to learn more. You’re so busy being angry that you’re missing the big picture.

    I think you’re going to have to dial back the anger a bit. Your conception of slavery is completely off. Sorry, but you just aren’t seeing the full historical record of what slavery was, what slavery represented, and how slavery affected this country and its people. In your zeal to implicate Whitey once again, you’re overlooking how people back then actually lived. In doing so, you’re refusing to acknowledge the humanity of your own people.

    Are you reading the book yet?

  133. I think part of the learning process, Snoopy, is empathy. Sit down with the book. Imagine you’re John Wayles. You grew up in poverty, and you’re driven. Compare him to people who are the same way today–immigrants who are willing to get down and dirty in order to be successful. You may see things that you haven’t seen before.

    Empathy is the only way to go about this, Snoopy. Open your heart and mind to how things really were.

    And for the fiftieth time, stop accusing Jefferson of being a rapist. Think of yourself as a historian. Historians don’t call him a rapist–because there’s no proof of that. Just get it out of your system. Hold yourself to that higher standard.

  134. Part of the reason why we’re reading this book together is because you too are ignorant on the history of chattel slavery in this country. – BigWOWO

    No. It’s clear that you are reluctant to characterize Thomas Jefferson as a rapist. But it’s also clear that you’ve been unable to prove any assertion I’ve made about how slavery functioned in America historically inaccurate.

    I understand American chattel slavery just fine. You do not, and that lack of basic knowledge leads you to wildly inaccurate assertions that weaken your argument.

  135. Snoopy,

    They say ignorance is bliss, but man, you seem very unhappy.

    I could tell you where you’re wrong, but let’s just read the book. That’s the simplest solution. Let’s just read the book, and afterwards we can discuss.

  136. I’m going to dial it back too, Snoopy. I’m not trying to be offensive, but it’s clear from your comments that there’s just so much you don’t know about either the Hemings family or slavery in general. I’m really not trying to be offensive. Let’s just read the book and discuss.

  137. “It’s damn near the Jetsons out here — to fail to grasp the incredible economic, social, and legal complexity of American chattel slavery displays a significant failure in your civic education, BigWOWO”

    What are the “legal complexities” of slavery? In the past it was legal. Today it is legal?

    What are the complexities? What is so complicated to understand?

  138. Stupid formatting, and that question mark shouldn’t be there.

    “It’s damn near the Jetsons out here — to fail to grasp the incredible economic, social, and legal complexity of American chattel slavery displays a significant failure in your civic education, BigWOWO”

    What are the “legal complexities” of slavery?

    In the past it was legal. Today it is illegal.

    What’s so complicated?

  139. “No. I’ve explained why the request to remove Wilson’s name has merit in a private university dedicated to providing a healthy learning environment for all students, regardless of race. Further, I’ve analyzed why traditional support for figures like President Wilson proves problematic for students of color.

    Again, no one suggests that the names of offensive famous Americans should be stricken from monuments everywhere in the country. But we should recognize that university settings require higher scrutiny to maintain safe and intellectually rigorous learning environments for all. The sort of free speech free-for-all common in online public spaces for example challenges students of color in ways traditional Princeton students are not challenged. Universities like Princeton must consider how their institutions have embraced certain students, historically and currently, and shunned others.

    But names on buildings as a debate has always been a lens by which students of color ask Princeton and Yale to consider these issues, not an inflexible demand.”

    Why is this so? Every reason you have given for removing Wilson’s name from Princeton can also apply to outside the university.

    By saying it is “not an inflexible demand” do you mean to admit that no serious student of color actually expects such a demand to be acted on???

    Throughout his life, Jefferson chose violent control of Black people over everything else, no matter how complex his thoughts on the subject.

    Where is your evidence that Jefferson inflicted violence on his slaves? Where is the proof to your earlier assertion that Jefferson forced himself on Sally Hemmings?

  140. Sengge,

    Snoopy is just grabbing some sound bites from academics. The reason it’s confusing is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the stuff he’s brought up. It doesn’t fit the context of the argument he’s been presenting.

    An example of the “legal” stuff that was complex was what constituted a slave. If one parent was white and one was black, the offspring’s status as slave or free depended on whether the father or mother was the free one. But of course, Snoopy hasn’t been discussing this at all. It hasn’t been brought up. It’s just a smokescreen.

    The weird thing about this conversation–and I’ve seen this before with Snoopy–is that I, bigWOWO, am saying that there’s a lot to consider here. That anyone, powerful or not, born during the 1700’s in America, lived in completely different circumstances than what we experience. The zeitgeist was completely different. But Snoopy is reducing it to: “No, Whitey is evil!” As you mention, he has no proof a rape occurred. Historians have no proof. Historians hold themselves to a higher standard. I think he should do the same.

    I’ll give an example of how more knowledge might change his tune. If you look upthread, he argues that Sally Hemings was a child because she was only 16 and he implies that Jefferson was guilty of statutory rape. But in the context of those times when people lived quickly and died at a younger age, 16 was well considered an adult. In fact, Gordon-Reed says that for slave women, 12 was considered an adult!

    Never mind the book. Check this out from wiki:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent

    The American colonies followed the English tradition, and the law was more of a guide. For example, Mary Hathaway (Virginia, 1689) was only 9 when she was married to William Williams. Sir Edward Coke (England, 17th century) “made it clear that the marriage of girls under 12 was normal, and the age at which a girl who was a wife was eligible for a dower from her husband’s estate was 9 even though her husband be only four years old.”[3]

    or

    A general great shift in social and legal attitudes toward issues of sex took place in the modern era and beliefs on the appropriate age below which girls should not be permitted to engage in sexual activity drifted toward adulthood. While ages from 10 to 13 were typically regarded as acceptable ages for sexual consent in Western countries during the mid-19th century,[1] by the end of the 19th century changing attitudes towards sexuality and childhood resulted in the raising of the age of consent.[4]

    Keep in mind that Jefferson and Sally’s relationship took place prior to the “mid” 19th century. Jefferson died before the 19th century reached its mid-point.

    Do you see why I’m so frustrated here? There’s a book–free from the library–where Snoopy could learn history. But instead, he shuts his mind and instead rehashes his bits and pieces of what he feels is emotionally true. It turns out to be an incredible waste of time.

    Sorry if I’m ranting and raving. It’s really frustrating.

  141. I find James Lamb’s analysis of Clinton and Obama vis a vis Rwanda and Iraq amateurish and comical, but a person can’t be faulted for this on topics outside the realms of what they are used to.

    But James presents himself as an expert on slavery. He says this:

    “Jefferson held complex and contradictory views on slavery, but none of that complexity obstructed his rape of Sally Hemings or pushed the third President to free large numbers of his slaves before his death.”

    What do you think would have happened to Jefferson’s slaves if they were freed en masse, independent of other institutional changes he advocated such as the abolition of the atlantic slave trade and the mass rejection of slavery among the white population?

    I think that as a statesman, Jefferson would have considered this issue very carefully.

    I don’t think James has thought about this.

  142. Thanks Byron, this is quite enlightening. The funny thing is that I’ve always taken age of consent for granted. It is good to understand the changing norms and rationales behind them.

  143. What do you think would have happened to Jefferson’s slaves if they were freed en masse, independent of other institutional changes he advocated such as the abolition of the atlantic slave trade and the mass rejection of slavery among the white population?

    I think that as a statesman, Jefferson would have considered this issue very carefully.

    That’s exactly right. Exactly right. Not to mention the fact that the economy of Virginia, his home state, was very much built on slavery. There would have been a lot to consider. What would happen to families, both black and white? What would happen to the economy? The country itself was still rather fragile at the time. Life was still brutal back then–I’m reading this book, and I’m shocked by how many women died during childbirth or from complications from childbirth, and it’s how many children died early. Jefferson was only the third president in this country’s history. To analyze his action outside of the context of how he and his countrymen lived at the time…as you said about James’s prior analysis, it seems amaterish. Almost cartoonish.

    I’m still hurting from this conversation. It’s like James thinks that there’s just some “slavery switch” that Thomas could’ve just flicked on and off with his finger. Or Obama uses drones just because he enjoys killing people. It’s ridiculous. It’s sad. These presidents are all highly intelligent and capable leaders…Wilson included. To judge them without understanding history is just wrong.

  144. While you can get all enthralled by the complexity of history, I think you should keep in mind the huge humanitarian problem this created for the slaves. As I had said, it was economically and politically expedient to keep slavery going. It still doesn’t make it morally justified. I don’t think it is ever good to forget this. It is helpful to understand the context of time, but one should avoid the temptation of becoming an apologist for it.

    As I would say, I would rather not judge Jefferson. If I am going to judge, it would be for the actions. Jefferson may have been an important figure in the intellectual conceptualizing the United States. He still supported slavery, and everything that went along with it, even as he fought for many of the rights we have today. Why should I look favorably on him for this?

    If there is one lesson to learn from history is that a good man can go wrong in many different ways.

  145. It’s presumptuous to assume that anybody here has forgotten about the humanitarian or moral nature of the problem. Also, labeling stances and arguments with moral connotations independent of critiquing the stances or arguments themselves is not helpful.

    It would be just as bad as if I were to say some people can afford to concern themselves only with the moral pronunciations because they are American, and the American experience with “chattel slavery” ended long ago. But it has not ended for people who are not necessarily American. The slave trade is still alive today, and comes in many guises. It is no longer openly legal, but often happens in that black area between criminal enterprise and collusion with or control by apparatuses of state power. We are not talking about a few dozen smuggled in trucks here and there. We are talking about hundreds of thousands to millions of people in vulnerable populations who live and die in conditions that can rival what occurred long ago.

    Whatever is getting Snoopy worked up about is still happening, but maybe it’s just not happening to black people, so I doubt any of you know anything about it.

    Moral pronunciations and crying about the “humanitarian problem” isn’t enough, because tangible results are needed. Tangible results will depend on a sound strategy coupled with tactical ability and sustained will.

    It is very safe to discuss American black slavery if all you’re doing is re-arguing, re-discovering or re-interpreting dogmas, for the sake of “the feels”. Only feelings are hurt and outraged. The same cannot be said for actual slavery occurring today.

  146. Going back to my question, I don’t think it is complex at all. Preparing to take action cognizant of what will result, as well as taking action in order to reach a pre-determined goal is something I imagine people of quality attempt to do all the time.

    Therefore I repeat my question to James Lamb, what do you think will happen if Jefferson freed his slaves en masse?

    You may answer too if you wish Jman.

  147. Some people here would prefer to apologize for slave owners than admit their moral failings. They make a grotesque and illogical argument. BigWOWO and Sengge act as if Jefferson could not both free slaves and send them to free Northern states, to escape slave catchers and others who would return them to bondage.

    No, the reason Jefferson and those like him did not free slaves en masse, even when they expressed moral outrage at the peculiar institution, was because slaves were much too valuable as property. Emancipation of the nation’s four million slaves in the 1860’s meant the confiscation of $3.5 billion in that era’s dollars. Sengge and BigWOWO pretend that the logistics of slave emancipation were somehow too great for individual slave owners to overcome. This is fantasy. Jefferson, like all slave owners, failed to overcome their greed, not their logistical creativity.

    The only cartoonish thinking in this conversation stems from people who would rather exalt Jefferson and Wilson and other White supremacists without fully recognizing their total history. This deliberate ignorance prevents reasonable disagreement with student activists of color who question the sometimes halfhearted diversity attempts made by their collegiate institutions. Frankly, everyone’s not equipped to handle conversations about their nation’s civic history; Jefferson’s supporters in this conversation prove that, if nothing else.

    Further, no one’s forgotten modern slavery at all. Slavery and trafficking enterprises today subject vulnerable populations to severe physical and sexual torment, and deserve the full weight of global law enforcement. But it’s telling Sengge, that you raise modern slavery in a conversation where some defend identical actions by yesteryear’s slave owners. With modern slavery, criminals often force girls too young to consent to sexual activity to travel large distances for the express purpose of subjecting them to unwanted sexual activity. This is exactly what Sally Hemings experienced in her travel to Paris with Thomas Jefferson in 1787-1789.

    There’s simply no reasonable way to condemn the modern version of such criminality and defend the past version. Some here wish to pretend that slavery was wrong, but too complicated for great American statesmen to dismantle in their time. This is simply incorrect, and naive. In contrast, people who consider affirmative action a moral wrong that harms Asian Americans don’t apply such considerations to statesmen who support that practice. You guys don’t talk about what’s ‘complicated’ in that debate.

    If I honestly believed that affirmative action harmed Asian Americans, I could not in good conscience support the practice, or support statesmen who support the practice. I know that slavery harmed people of African decent, so I cannot support the practice or support statesmen who supported the practice. This is called moral consistency.

  148. Sengge,

    Thank you for bringing in some common sense and presenting it to James. You probably notice that he didn’t answer your question of what would happen if Jefferson freed the slaves en masse. Nope, he’s just going to attack Jefferson for “greed” or “rape.” He’s not going to answer the question. Why? Because answering the question REQUIRES that he know something about life during that era. It’s much easier to just attack Whitey without having to undergo the laborious process of reading history.

    James,

    If I honestly believed that affirmative action harmed Asian Americans, I could not in good conscience support the practice, or support statesmen who support the practice.I know that slavery harmed people of African decent, so I cannot support the practice or support statesmen who supported the practice. This is called moral consistency.

    First of all, you don’t believe affirmative action hurts Asian Americans because you’ve closed your mind to the evidence. If were as stubborn as you are, I’d still believe that Santa Claus just went on a thirty-year break and is planning to come down my chimney next week.

    I can give you a pass on the empathy question. You either have empathy or you don’t.

    However, I cannot give you a pass on your cartoonish, clownish, black-and-white way of seeing the world. It’s illogical, and it’s not the way the real world works. Obama doesn’t send drones because he’s pro-murder. Henry Ford didn’t invent the Model-T because he wanted to destroy the environment. Jefferson did not NOT free the slaves (“Turn the slavery switch off before you leave the room, Tom!”) because he loved hurting people. All of these decisions are complex. For you to reduce these all to a simple question of “moral consistency”…well, that’s just being ridiculously naive. The real world doesn’t work like that.

    I’ve kinda lost hope here, James. I’ve given you information about the book that you need to read. I’ve presented some of the background about how people lived back then, how 12 was considered an adult, how historians don’t accuse Jefferson of being a rapist because there is no proof. I’m not going to go into the history of Virginia, although that’s also something you have to know in order to say anything worthwhile on this issue. But I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do here.

  149. Snoopy,

    This past week of exchanges has been most upsetting. This is basic knowledge that you should have had long ago.

    I know this is review, but please reread this post:

    http://www.bigwowo.com/2014/09/no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch/

    It’s the basic law of economics. Nothing is free. There are costs for every action. Obama could lay off the drones, but it could mean more dead Americans. Jefferson could’ve started the Civil War soon after the Revolutionary War, but there would have been costs to that as well.

    This is basic knowledge, basic common sense.

    Man, I can’t believe I’m getting so upset over having to re-explain this to you.

  150. James, you keep going back to Sally and Paris. I honestly don’t know the story, but you seem to assert that freeing her there would have been the “moral” thing to do. But would it really be moral?

    Let me give you an analogy. Let’s say that your wife finds out she is pregnant, and you are absolutely delighted! Then she tells you she doesn’t want to keep the baby, for any reason. My understanding of the times is that the “moral” thing to do is to say, “Your body, your choice”. But if you say “NO! Dear god, I want the baby! Honey, let’s talk about this and whatever’s going on, we can get through this…” does this mean you are immoral? Does this mean your “patriarchy” is getting in the way of someone’s control over her body? Does this mean you are “invalidating her consent” and those other esoteric victim-speak concepts you spent years absorbing? Does this mean you are a bad man?

    I understand it’s hard to put yourself in those shoes because you actually don’t want the baby, but just try and tell me how things change. I think this may be a more meaningful “thought exercise” for you than contemplating opposition to Affirmative Action, because the chances of you actually feeling that way are several factors lower than feeling a smidgen of compassion for a new life you’ve brought into this world.

  151. Also, James, maybe you could quote where I “acted” as if Jefferson could not free his slaves. Last I looked, I only asked you a simple question, a question that you did everything not to answer. Everything else you’ve written is just a tangent. Please just try to answer the question, or else we will have to trade tangential imprecations.

    Also Snoopy, you are quite ignorant of contemporary events. When modern day slavery pops up, your gendered lenses immediately bring up sexual trafficking. This is not the only permutation of modern day slavery. I will enlighten you, have a look at this:

    http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015-12-18/eu-demands-thailand-address-slavery-in-its-seafood-industry

    http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/dec/16/enslaved-on-thai-fishing-boat-thought-i-would-die-there

    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/burmese-fishing-slave-makes-long-journey-home-after-22-year-odyssey-aboard-thai-fishing-vessels

    Do these gendered lenses you have turn a problem of vulnerable populations exploited by armed force into simply a gendered problem where femininity under attack is the cause celebre?

    Now put yourself in these shoes: you are a political leader among leaders in a region dominated by fishing fleets and other large players. These fleets function as an informal naval militia and marine force, incapable of standing up to a modern navy, but their advantage is being able to be everywhere at once, and therefore conduct guerilla warfare on the near and high seas. The supply of weapons by the army and the collusion of police forces to preserve a conspiracy of secrets is part of the structure. You have long known that the suffering inflicted on your captives is inhumane, but this is how you, your family and everybody of importance in your immediate region gained influence and made their fortunes.

    How would you end slavery on the high seas and the brothels? Remember, you are not just a shitty blog writer or another “professional manager” in a company perhaps owned by the fishing fleets themselves. You are a political leader and you have influence but only because people as well armed and opinionated as you follow you.

    How will you end a trade that is worth TRILLIONS of dollars and supported by just as much money in arms value? Is a moral stance enough?

    How would you do it? How would you end the slave trade?

  152. By the way James, I must thank you even for your insults. You see, normally if Byron says something too strange I would just immediately dismiss something I do not have the capacity to discuss or understand. Things like, telling black people what they should feel, what culture they should adopt, how they should raise their children, etc. These things are VERY STRANGE to me. LOL

    But lol, as soon as you jump in, I get to see that maybe Byron’s points are not that strange after all. Opposition to strange and peculiar, perhaps defective points of views needn’t necessarily be ironclad, but they should at least be consistent. By observing your inconsistencies I get to see more nuances of the problem. These things being raised are nowhere near as black and white as you or I assumed. Or else, our arguments would be stronger and more decisive.

    Thanks to your participation I know more about slavery in America now than I did before. Before this, I only had general observations of scattered commonly known facts. The few links you provided and the independent investigation I followed up with are tremendously useful. This week I have learned something new I have not learned before, and this has broken a somewhat bad months long slump of demotivation.

    Once again I should repeat, I am mostly with you, Jman, John Doe’s and King’s stances on the matter of slavery, morality and consent. Engaging in places where others dare not tread has allowed me to expand my meagre knowledge. I could only wish this conversation would be as helpful to you, but alas, you have already decided there’s nothing new to be learnt.

    But I think if you tried to answer my question, you will find in our perspectives we have much in common.

  153. Byron, I’m still hoping that James will answer the question, even if it’s just a shitty thought experiment. Wouldn’t it be better than reciting dogmas?

    You’ll notice he made a lot of accusations and unsound claims, but it’s simply too exhausting to debunk every one of them. We must go through the important parts first. Did you see how he equated modern sex trafficking with what happened to Sally Hemmings, and brought up age of consent? How could he not realise that contemporary sex trafficking involves actual rape and not just statutory rape? In addition did he forget that the age of consent back then was way lower?

    I still don’t think that freeing slaves is complex. It’s only complex if people are stuck with emotions and feelings and doctrines. It’s not complex if you look at the problem and undertake to solve it with all our will and human ingenuity.

  154. I just realized that perhaps he’s talking about statutory rape now because he’s backtracking on his claim that Jefferson physically forced himself on her.

    I would have preferred a more honest admission but I guess this is a start. It won’t prevent him from making more false sexual assault accusations on other men, but at least it’s a reference for the future if he has second thoughts on his approach.

  155. Sengge,

    I too am grateful that James jumped in. When I saw your comment to me way upthread about telling people how to think, I was going to respond, but then something interrupted me, and I never got around to it. Thankfully James came here and explained by example what the problem is. You now see what we’re dealing with, right? It’s an entrenched problem that destroys all hope of getting better. Without a different mindset, those who follow extreme liberal victimhood are doomed to repeat the past. You can see from example how deep the problem runs.

    I too am dismayed by James’s own reluctance to learn new things. His current ideas about how slavery was practiced are way off. Way off. He often tries to throw accusations and nonsense just to see what sticks. He knows you and I don’t have time to rebut every point.

    I’ve also learned more about slavery this week than I had ever known before. That book that I’m supposed to be reading with James is very interesting. I really appreciate how Gordon-Reed describes the many issues that were taking place back in the day. It’s helped me to understand a lot about what life was like back then.

    Sigh. History is complex.

  156. The problem I see is that on one side you can read history objectively without judgment, as Byron seems be doing. Then you can read it normatively, while making critical judgements, as James seems to be doing. As Sengge asks me, what would happen if the slaves were freed all at one? I will bring back my remark, it might have been politically and economically expedient, but slavery as practiced was wrong. You could just as well look at questions of Japanese internment and the use of the atomic bomb. It is important to remember that history is not clean.

    When it comes to history, I think it is important to keep your vision stereoscopic. It can be a very hard thing to do, and even harder to write comments trying to keep proper emphasis on the numerous points-of-view one can take. James to me appears to me to use a lot of hyperbole, but at the same time this conversation seems to take what happened to blacks for granted.

  157. What is the value of the normative look and the moral judgments? People do not behave strictly according to morality. It is a layer of conceit they apply on their lives for motives that are not often acknowledged.

    It is easy to be moral when all you have to do is agree with what other people believe, and do what everybody else is doing. Morality then is as simple as claiming the moral identity and stripping it away from others.

    It is not so easy when you are faced with a decision, firmly within your hands, and taking the “moral” way means you will pay a price for it. When that time comes you will discover just how “moral” you are, despite all your opinions on the matter.

  158. As Sengge asks me, what would happen if the slaves were freed all at one? I will bring back my remark, it might have been politically and economically expedient, but slavery as practiced was wrong.

    You did not answer the question. Once again you assign a moral value judgement instead of answering the question directly.

    Your evasiveness as well as James’s makes me wonder if there is something the both of you are trying to hide. Why is it so hard to answer a simple and direct question about what would happen if Jefferson freed his slaves?

    Do you need an example to help you to answer a simple and direct question? You could ask me, “What would happen if the fishing fleets freed all their slaves at once?” I will answer your question directly.

    Are we really taking what happened to blacks for granted, as you claim, or is this merely a convenient thing for you to say? Does tone policing help discussions?

    I sense some unwillingness to slay some sacred cows here, but without questioning our assumptions about what we know, how can we be certain that what we know approximates actual truth?

    Going back to the question; Wilson: objective assessment or moral judgment? What are the benefits and limitations of both approaches? If it is absurd to deify mere mortals, it must certainly also be absurd to Satanize them. In addition, wouldn’t it be absurd to parade “objectivity” when the human condition imposes hard limits on this? Everything we do, absolutely everything including the vaunted virtue of altruism, is done based on self-interest. What implications does this have for our capability and ability to judge other people and historical contexts? Is it as Snoopy acts, that judgement can be a mere crap shoot based on dogmas and emotional argumentation and accusations, because one judgement is as good as another therefore only the ends matter?

    Even Snoopy finally admits that the request to take down Wilson is not a serious one, even though he acted with righteous fury and indignation when we asked about it earlier.

    All of us here have been very consistent except for Snoopy. Don’t give him a free pass just because you feel the need to tone police the discussion to be more acceptable.

  159. Self-interest is important, however it is not everything. I am self-interested in the United States remaining strong. I can understand why many blacks would be discontent with the US. Part of that is to avoid dismissing their claim of historical injustice. If I am going to say Jefferson was a great statesman for the US during his time, I think at the same time we should recognize the irony of fighting for the rights of people, while enslaving others.

    If we look at three major revolutions at the time, that being the US, French, and Columbian, and see two failed. The French ended up being too idealistic, but the Columbian ended up fractured by too much self-interest. The revolution in the US ended up being successful by luck and by being able to balance the two.

    What would have happened if the Jefferson tried to fee all the slaves? One could try to answer this in two ways. First one could answer by saying who knows. History is complex, and we don’t know all the intervening issues. Of course we do have some ideas. Another possible way you could answer would be to give a definite path. Of course that could just as well be bullshit.

    But I suppose you want a definite answer. I would say if Jefferson wanted to free all the slaves, he would have lost his base of political power. If enough Southern politicians decided to free the slaves, there might be some chaos, unless and until another model could take the place of the plantation system. If the northern states forced it on the South, there likely would not have been a civil war, but there would be a fracturing of the US. At that point the British may have been able to take back some of the states.

    I think you looking for too many direct answers. You seem to ask, what is the right way to view this historical event? I would rather see how many different ways I can view the event. Then I would ask which one is appropriate to use at this time? I would try to fit as many tools as I can in the tool box, and size up the situation, and try to pull out the one that fits the best. I’m not going to find the ultimate tool. I might just end up getting a hammer and using it for every job.

    Of course, decisions in life must be made at the time they are made. History though is not a thing I have to make decisions about. You accuse me of being elusive, and I completely agree. History should be a reflective and contemplative exercise. You ask when it comes to Wilson, “should be objective or moral?” I think elusiveness is the right answer.

  160. All of us here have been very consistent except for Snoopy. Don’t give him a free pass just because you feel the need to tone police the discussion to be more acceptable. – Sengge Rinchen

    This, as usual, is garbage. I’ve been completely consistent. I’ve explained the perspectives of college activists of color who speak against the ahistorical traditionalism that prefers their silence when members of their campus communities extol the virtues of slave owners and White supremacists.

    Further, I’ve argued persuasively that it is not possible to pretend that Thomas Jefferson and slave owners like him who impregnated their female slaves engaged in consensual sexual relationships with those female slaves. They are rapists, and deserve all the respect and admiration rapists deserve.

    This isn’t a debate between objectivity on one side and moralism on the other. This debate exists because some of us understand American history, and others do not. BigWOWO’s various positions apologize for slavery (“It’s a neverending playdate!”) and lack all credibility.

    Malleability in the age of consent is an old tool to enforce female subjugation, nothing more. Couple this with the complete and total control masters enjoyed over slaves during American chattel slavery, and it’s clear that the sexual relationship with Sally Hemings Thomas Jefferson began that resulted in a pregnancy when she was sixteen could not under any circumstances allow for basic human independence or choice from Hemings.

    This isn’t a love story, it’s sex slavery. This is the statesman BigWOWO would prefer everyone respect: a guy who wrote flowery rhetoric about slavery’s evils, from personal experience. Morally, BigWOWO’s in checkmate; the evidence against respect for Thomas Jefferson is so strong that to discount it as he does one must pretend that Sally Hemings’ experience, and her very humanity, doesn’t matter.

    No Sengge, I’ve been totally consistent. Student activists of color assert that in communities that openly state a desire to create and maintain safe spaces for diversity and inclusion (basically every selective college and university in America today, by their own public statements) support and admiration for White supremacists and slave owners may not be compatible. None of this means that the literal act of removing names from buildings and letterhead represents victory; rather, the activists challenge their schools to consider how well they live up to the schools’ diversity and inclusion ideals.

    Further, as I said a while ago, if Thomas Jefferson wished to divest himself from slavery, if he wished to live up to his own anti-slavery leanings, if he wished to cleanse his wicked soul, he could have granted freedom to all his slaves and booked them passage to Northern states, or to Canada, to escape those who would return them to bondage. Jefferson never did this, because his slaves were too financially valuable to him. Greed overruled this Deist’s reason, Sengge; people who wish to regard Jefferson highly need to explain why, in all his majesty, he could not imagine a world where Sally Hemings was free enough to choose whom she wished to love.

  161. 1. Yes, and I heard that several of America’s founding fathers freed their slaves. I was actually genuinely interested in knowing what life would have been like for freed slaves in the free states or even elsewhere in the world, for example Canada or the Caribbean, if any safe haven exists for them at all. In the end I heard he only freed five, and sold the rest to cover his debts. What he wrote about black people is also quite revealing. Even if they were freed by his prescription he wanted them all shipped out of America because he could not imagine them having the same rights as white people.

    But the thing though, is do you know what life would be like for Jefferson’s slaves if he freed them? Not in general, I mean in more detail. More importantly, do you think such details matter?

    2. You’re no longer saying Jefferson forced himself on Sally or that he used the threat of punishment on her.

    3. Do you think it is possible for a person to be “incapable of giving consent” on an ideological or doctrinal basis?

    4. Back to Wilson. How is making an un-serious demand, that is a demand nobody seriously expects to be pursued until it is met, “challenge” universities to create “safe spaces” even if you think that’s a worthy goal?

    5. If a university seeks to create a “safe space” for diversity and inclusion, doesn’t that mean the rest of the university is not safe and diversity and inclusion has been put into a silo? Dude how is this even a goal?

    6. We’ve established that you don’t want to take down the Jefferson Memorial because you don’t actually want to take down Wilson either. Okay I get it. It’s sort of like yelling “I kill you!!!” in a rage, but actually you don’t want to kill the other person.

    7. Some of the questions above are genuine but others are trick questions! See if you can spot them, lol. Even though they are trick questions they are serious questions.

  162. Sengge, the student activists of color are not making empty demands. You assume a binary “either/ or” dichotomy where none exists. The point of asking Princeton University to reconsider it’s admiration for Woodrow Wilson is to challenge Princeton University to reconsider its effectiveness in creating a respectful space for both academic discourse and inclusive diversity.

    If this is possible without changing letterhead and building names, fine. If it requires cosmetic alterations to ensure that the campus community in question achieves racial inclusion, that too is permissible. The point is that the traditional assumption that all students are supposed to assimilate into WASP social conventions cannot govern a modern collegiate environment. The entire school is supposed to be a ‘safe space’ for diversity and inclusion, obviously.

    Further, you can research the lives of freed slaves on your own time. The point is as you mention, that Thomas Jefferson obviously preferred Black people in bondage, not as free citizens of the country he helped forge. That alone makes any attempt to revitalize Jefferson’s reputation as some sort of amazing statesman completely suspect, in my view.

    And I’ve said consistently that any sexual activity between Jefferson and Hemings occurs by coercive means. Hemings cannot consent to sex with Jefferson; as a slave, she lacks all ability to refuse him. I haven’t dropped any claims about Jefferson’s rape of Sally Hemings — every time they had intercourse, he forced himself on her. Every time they were intimate, he used the threat of punishment on her. That’s how slavery works. Denial of this risks denying Sally Hemings’ humanity, and the humanity of those in similar circumstances, then and now.

  163. As an aside, I believe that the people who have to most trouble with the student activist demands are those for whom assimilation into Whiteness is an unalloyed good. As was true of student activists of color generations ago, the basic claim made at Princeton, Yale, and other universities today is that the expectation that all students, no matter from where they hail, can come to a university and express admiration for White supremacists like Woodrow Wilson and John C. Calhoun is not reasonable within a modern corporate university.

    The idea that people of color from around the world would enroll in an Ivy League university and then behave exactly like the students who historically attend such schools was always unreasonable, and it’s not surprising that students who reject and/ or are rejected by the traditional social conventions at such schools publicly question the assumptions on which those traditional social conventions are built.

    Everyone can’t don a varsity jacket, date a blond cheerleader, and binge drink at the frat house. Many of us never wanted to do so. I don’t believe that the traditionalists and free speech advocates who want to preserve the rights of know-nothing co-eds to wear blackface on Halloween ever grapple with the fact that for many students of color the campus itself is a reasonably hostile environment, one they should have the ability to change through advocacy if First Amendment protections mean anything.

    It’s bizarre: the traditionalists and free speech advocates respond with horror and derision at twenty-year-olds who find nooses and blackface costumes despicable, even during Halloween. Mind you, these same observers say nothing about the nooses and blackface costumes: it’s the organized and peaceful protests against such filth that bother these commentators. Student of color advocacy reminds these conservatives that everyone in America isn’t really desperate to become White, a position these conservatives really don’t understand, in my view.

    Hell, even BigWOWO would rather advise student activists of color to find something to respect in Woodrow Wilson, an ardent segregationist. As this conversation makes clear, BigWOWO lacks the historical understanding to know what he asks of these students of color, but the point is that Big WOWO assumes the students have something meaningful to learn from Wilson’s legacy, not that those who extol Wilson’s virtues have something meaningful to learn from the students. That assumption deserves critique.

  164. Haha! Great question, jman!

    You and Sengge probably now see why I stopped asking James when he’s going to read the book. The truth is that it doesn’t matter–he’s not going to believe anything the book says. He’s going to be doing all the “teaching” and none of the learning, regardless of whether Annette Gordon-Reed is an expert on Sally Hemings or not. He’s convinced that his emotional anger and his status as a black man give him an air of authority. This means nothing to me or you or anyone else outside of the extremists–we care about facts, not identity politics. “Informed” is what matters in this conversation to me, and James is not very informed compared to an expert like Annette Gordon-Reed. Since I’ve been reading while he’s been getting angry, he’s not very informed compared to me. I now can confidently say I know more about American slavery than James. Ironically, I obtained this knowledge in large part because James challenged me. Thank you, James.

    Gordon-Reed states again and again throughout the book that just because the law condoned rape, doesn’t mean that rape occurred in 100% of these interactions. That’s common sense. If one lacks common sense, one can prove this through logic–in no logical universe would a person’s station or status be proof of a crime. But one has to be willing to use either common sense or logic to understand this. Anger is no substitute for either.

    If you put yourself into Thomas Jefferson’s shoes, it’s easy to see how he could have fallen in love with Sally. He was in his forties, unmarried for years (his wife had died long ago), and he was around Sally all the time. It’s easy to see how she could fall in love with him–one of the most powerful men in the country and a founding father and genius whose intellect would influence nearly all of mankind.

    But oh no! That challenges the extreme liberal narrative! He’s White, and therefore he’s a rapist! Get James to a safe space!

  165. Snoopy, Snoopy, Snoopy 🙂

    You have just damned yourself and the entire black race of America:)

    And I’ve said consistently that any sexual activity between Jefferson and Hemings occurs by coercive means. Hemings cannot consent to sex with Jefferson; as a slave, she lacks all ability to refuse him. I haven’t dropped any claims about Jefferson’s rape of Sally Hemings — every time they had intercourse, he forced himself on her. Every time they were intimate, he used the threat of punishment on her. That’s how slavery works. Denial of this risks denying Sally Hemings’ humanity, and the humanity of those in similar circumstances, then and now.

    Marital rape was not made illegal until very recently in America, meaning that heretofore, women were unable to withhold or withdraw consent to sex with their husband. Violence and threats against their welfare and that of their children was frequently used to coerce sex from them. Because your mother was unable to meaningfully give consent, every time your father had sex with her he was committing rape. You are a child born of rape, and denying this means denying your mother’s humanity and others like her under similar circumstances, then and now. 😀

    But it goes far deeper. What do you think happened between black African slave husbands and black African slave wives? 🙁

    During those times, black women had no remedy or recognised right to refuse sex with their black husbands, therefore they could not give consent either. Marital rape between black husbands and wives frequently involved violence and threats to the welfare of the wife and her children. Every time a black man had sex with a black woman, this means that he forced himself on her because she was incapable of giving consent. Every time a black woman was intimate with a black man, the threat of punishment and violence was used on her.

    I see it now, Snoopy, I really see it. 🙁 Denying that you are a child born of generations of rape is denying not just Sally Hemming’s humanity, but also that of your mother and her mother’s mother before you, stretching back to as long and far as when black men and women were together. 🙁

    But why are you only outraged about Sally Hemmings and Jefferson and not also about the incessant black raping that also happened back then? Is it because of race? It’s okay if black men raped their wives as the norm but not if the rapist is white? 😮

    Why? How Snoopy? Can you explain yourself? 😀

  166. Sengge, the student activists of color are not making empty demands. You assume a binary “either/ or” dichotomy where none exists. The point of asking Princeton University to reconsider it’s admiration for Woodrow Wilson is to challenge Princeton University to reconsider its effectiveness in creating a respectful space for both academic discourse and inclusive diversity.

    It’s pretty clear to me that if you make a demand that is just “a challenge”, then this is not a serious demand at all. It’s just like a whacko saying “Respect me and give me a safe space or I KILL YOU!”. He doesn’t actually intend to kill anybody. He only wants to “challenge” you to respect him and give him a safe space. How people can do that is not known, because he did not state any specific remedies to wrongs or actions to take. I.e he did not make any actual demands. He made a demand that was not actually a demand. It was only a “challenge”.

    There’s a word to describe this. It’s called bullying 🙂

    Bullies can’t talk about creating respectful spaces for academic discourse and “inclusive diversity”. It’s hypocritical. You need a lot of honesty and courage to debate ideas openly. None of that happens when bullies use smear campaigns and other bullying tactics to silence other people. 🙂

    If this is possible without changing letterhead and building names, fine. If it requires cosmetic alterations to ensure that the campus community in question achieves racial inclusion, that too is permissible. The point is that the traditional assumption that all students are supposed to assimilate into WASP social conventions cannot govern a modern collegiate environment. The entire school is supposed to be a ‘safe space’ for diversity and inclusion, obviously.

    Oh I see, when you talked about creating “safe spaces”, what you intended was to expand that “safe” space to the whole school. So what started out as banning ideas, words and behaviors deemed “hostile” (by who?) in “safe spaces” must necessarily be eventually extended to the whole school for diversity and inclusion to be achieved.

    But gee, guess what? That sounds a lot like censorship to me. It sounds like censorship, thought control, Communism.

    Why are you advocating a Communist takeover of American universities? 😀

    Further, you can research the lives of freed slaves on your own time. The point is as you mention, that Thomas Jefferson obviously preferred Black people in bondage, not as free citizens of the country he helped forge. That alone makes any attempt to revitalize Jefferson’s reputation as some sort of amazing statesman completely suspect, in my view.

    Yes and I do research their lives on my own time. I didn’t ask you to enlighten me. Go back and read. I asked you if such details mattered. Not in general forms, but in specifics. If Jefferson freed the rest of his one hundred and thirty slaves, what would have happened to them?

    Do you feel that such details matter? Answer the question.

  167. This means nothing to me or you or anyone else outside of the extremists–we care about facts, not identity politics. “Informed” is what matters in this conversation to me, and James is not very informed compared to an expert like Annette Gordon-Reed.

    Did you see his convoluted arguments about taking down Wilson? None of his reasoning makes sense except for one coherent theme running through it all:

    Take down Wilson “because Whitey”.

    It’s as if in order to support taking down Wilson you first have to believe everything he says about Princeton, Yale and the other Ivy Leagues being “WASP” and hostile to “students of color”, and that the only solution for this is to create spaces to block out Whitey (and Chang) and then expand it to the whole school. In the meantime make demands that are not actual demands, and why? Again, because of Whitey and Chang oppressing black students. Ku Klux Klan on Halloween, jocks cockblocking black men from dating white blondes – remember that if you merely reject such a lifestyle choice this means that white people are oppressing you – what other grievances were aired? I see none. LOL!

    I understand it now. Take down Wilson is like the black Princeton student’s counter-reaction to the White student wearing Ku Klux Klan costumes and paraphanelia on Halloween! One immature act to respond to another.

  168. BigWOWO, Gordon-Reed makes a difficult, and ultimately unsupportable claim when she suggests that Jefferson did not rape Sally Hemings. This is why her work invites such controversy. Her claim in no way represents historical consensus on the matter, and to assume it does for your own purposes cherry-picks an argument you find palatable to your interests and labels it fact.

    What exactly are the students doing on campus, if they are the ones doing all the teaching? – Jman

    Who suggests that students are ‘doing all the teaching’? It’s not clear to what this question refers. Jman, the student activists of color to whom I refer are on campus to improve their education, obviously. This would be easier were they not subjected to racist actions within their environment by other members of the campus community.

    Some expect these students to remain silent and compliant when they are exposed to prejudice and bias where they live, because as I mentioned before those conservatives oppose organized anti-racist advocacy, not actual racism. Some conservatives prefer silence and compliance from people of color who face prejudice and bias where they live because they expect all people of color to assimilate Whiteness. The student activists of color reject the idea that they must live with the prejudice of others without challenging anything. They do not believe they must emulate Whiteness, and reject the assimilation others expect.

    These activists deserve support in their endeavors. They represent exactly what the First Amendment exists to protect: minority voice against majority groupthink.

  169. James, did you even read the book to know what Gordon-Reed actually said? If you couldn’t even pick it up, then how would you know what she actually said about the matter?

    In any case all of that is irrelevant.

    Based on your own reasoning, your own father raped your mother every time, EVERY TIME they were intimate. Threats of violence and force was used on her, and one of the results was a little sprog named James Lamb, a product borne not out of love but violent and non-consensual raping. 😀

  170. BigWOWO, I’ll get back to you on the book itself. I was actually interested in a conversation on Gordon-Reed’s work, but it’s clear that’s not possible on the site. I’ll discuss it with you over email.

    It’s also clear that no matter the conversation, however difficult, some people here remain too ignorant and too immature to hold that conversation. That’s regrettable, as always. Sengge knows nothing about my upbringing, and pretends that children born of rape have something for which they should feel apologetic. This is disgusting. Sengge is openly contemptuous of reasonable debate, even online where we all expect lonely trolls like him. BigWOWO, congratulations. On your blog, slavery is “a neverending playdate” and people accuse others’ parents of rape over a history disagreement.

    I’m sure you’re proud.

    If anything, this debate illustrates the meaninglessness behind a phrase like “Whitey and Chang”. All the hyperbolic ad hominem attacks issued here against student activists of color and/ or those who present their views fairly show that the activists and their supporters possess a reasonable gripe against bigotry in our society, and that they are correct to challenge this bigotry where they live.

    Most Asian American students support these activists, or join them in their fight, to their credit. It’s something to consider. Most Asian American students have no need for this “Whitey and Chang” nonsense because they don’t view Black and Latino students as the enemy. This site attracts those who do, and it’s up to the site’s owner to consider why, on his own time.

  171. James,

    BigWOWO, I’ll get back to you on the book itself. I was actually interested in a conversation on Gordon-Reed’s work, but it’s clear that’s not possible on the site. I’ll discuss it with you over email.

    It seems like you’ve already made up your mind about the book. Just one comment above your last, you wrote:

    BigWOWO, Gordon-Reed makes a difficult, and ultimately unsupportable claim when she suggests that Jefferson did not rape Sally Hemings.

    First of all, being where I am right now in the book and seeing where it seems to be leading, I’m not 100% sure she eventually makes this “claim.” I’m withholding judgment until I get to that part. But if you can declare that it’s “unsupportable” before even reading her evidence, what’s the point in even reading it? What’s the point of discussing it? You’ve already made up your mind based on your own prejudices against white men, despite the fact that this book isn’t even written by a white man.

    I mean, really, James. I’m upset by your refusal to consider other perspectives, especially when this perspective comes from an African American woman who is an expert on Sally Hemings. It’s really irrational.

    Sengge knows nothing about my upbringing, and pretends that children born of rape have something for which they should feel apologetic. This is disgusting. Sengge is openly contemptuous of reasonable debate, even online where we all expect lonely trolls like him. BigWOWO, congratulations. On your blog, slavery is “a neverending playdate” and people accuse others’ parents of rape over a history disagreement.

    No, James. Just no. That’s not what’s happening here.

    You “proved” that Thomas raped Sally based on station–his as a slaveowner, and hers as a slave. Sengge “proved” that your father raped your mother, using your exact same logic, that it was legal basically a generation ago (and it still may be legal in some states), so therefore it happened. Of course, your father didn’t rape your mother. I know that, you know that, and Sengge knows that. Sengge is just pointing out that terrible flaw in your thinking, the flaw that makes you feel you have the right to accuse men of crimes without cause or evidence. He’s trying to illustrate the flaw by showing you what you know to be an exception.

    Logic doesn’t care whether your feelings are hurt. We all should be grateful to that–it gives us a foundation free from prejudices. What Sengge used is called a counterexample:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterexample

    He used a counterexample with people who you know, since you’re refusing to learn more about Sally Hemings. He wasn’t really accusing your parents of anything–he was just using a counterexample to prove that you aren’t using logic.

    In the book, a source frequently cited is Madison Hemings, Sally’s (and Thomas’s) son. He doesn’t seem to think it was rape, and yet you’re basically doing to him what Sengge did to you–although Sengge’s was just a hypothetical; yours is a serious accusation. Please think about this.

    Most Asian American students support these activists, or join them in their fight, to their credit. It’s something to consider. Most Asian American students have no need for this “Whitey and Chang” nonsense because they don’t view Black and Latino students as the enemy. This site attracts those who do, and it’s up to the site’s owner to consider why, on his own time.

    I don’t think most Asian American students support these vicious crybullies and their prejudices against Whitey and Chang. I don’t think most black students support them. Sorry, but I see no proof of that. I won’t ask you for proof or evidence because I know you don’t have it. These crybullies, while not the “enemy,” aren’t helping people. They distort history and refuse to learn. Their conduct is antithetical to their college’s mission.

    James, feel free to e-mail me about Gordon-Reed’s book if you’re not comfortable discussing it here. I will tell you in advance that I’m not interested in discussing it if you’re just going to cover your eyes and attack Gordon-Reed’s work without proof or reason, the way you’re doing it right now. It’s not a good use of either your time or my time if you’re going to do that. I’ve led you to water by bringing up the book, but I can’t force you to drink. If we discuss the book, I want you to promise that you’ll approach it with an open mind and that you’ll use logic over emotion. This has to be a precondition.

  172. You “proved” that Thomas raped Sally based on station–his as a slaveowner, and hers as a slave. Sengge “proved” that your father raped your mother, using your exact same logic, that it was legal basically a generation ago (and it still may be legal in some states), so therefore it happened. – BigWOWO

    This is not, not has it ever been, my logic on this subject.

    Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings because there is no way that Sally Hemings could consent to sexual relations with Thomas Jefferson, given her lifelong and total subjugation to her owner. Even if she wanted to consent to sex with Jefferson, she could not, and we’ve no evidence in the historical record that suggests she did express this interest. This is not about station, this is about choice. When someone is forced to have sex they did not or could not choose, that is rape.

    BigWOWO, your consistent failure to recognize this throughout this debate parallels your site’s consistent failure to interact with opposing viewpoints in a reasonable and respectful manner. You routinely conjure perversions of my positions, and those of student activists of color you disdain, and argue against those misshapen arguments. I’ve said repeatedly that Sally Hemings throughout her life lacked all ability to consent to sex with Thomas Jefferson; given this, he forced himself on her every time they coupled. She could not choose him, and there is no evidence that she ever did.

    Sengge’s perverse analogy doesn’t make any sense. Your attempt to justify his perverse analogy doesn’t make any sense. It speaks only to the moral ineptitude common on this site, the ineptitude that relegates this place to a forgotten corner of Asian American political thought, disavowed when remembered.

    I don’t write with any prejudice against White men. I write with respect for history. In order to persist with this insipid ‘Whitey and Chang’ dogma, you are required to cherry-pick the historical record. You express zero concern for Denis Kearney, Executive Order 9066, Robert Ebens and Michael Nitz, or any of a host of other historical examples that complicate the ‘Whitey and Chang’ stupid you promote.

    You forget coolie labor in Western railroads and the bamboo ceiling in Western tech startups to pretend that Whites and Asians hold some natural alliance against other minority groups. This is farce. The rest of us know better, and understand that disagreement with White supremacy is not prejudice against White people.

    That’s why your assimilationist perspectives do not hold greater currency among Asian Americans, BigWOWO. Historical honesty does not allow you to forget material. Annette Gordon-Reed cannot prove the existence of a loving and supporting relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. What she can do is illustrate the context in which this rape took place.

    A reasonably open mind should be willing to learn more about that story, as I am, knowing that the base fact of Jefferson’s rape of Hemings, painful for many, cannot be altered. Logically, you don’t get to cherry-pick the history you like, BigWOWO. This as always been a precondition.

  173. This is not, not has it ever been, my logic on this subject.

    Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings because there is no way that Sally Hemings could consent to sexual relations with Thomas Jefferson, given her lifelong and total subjugation to her owner. Even if she wanted to consent to sex with Jefferson, she could not, and we’ve no evidence in the historical record that suggests she did express this interest. This is not about station, this is about choice. When someone is forced to have sex they did not or could not choose, that is rape.

    Nope James, the logic that I used is your exact same logic. Your logic is that Sally could not have given consent because she could not refuse consent or withdraw consent. The same is true of your own mother, who was not recognized as having the right, legally, morally or culturally, to refuse your father’s advances. Even if your mother wanted to consent to sex with your own father, such consent is meaningless without the corresponding right to refuse or withdraw consent. We are talking about choice here. You either have a choice, or you do not have one.

    DID YOUR MOTHER HAVE CHOICE? According to your own fucking logic, SHE DID NOT and COULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TO HAVE HAD IT. Even worse, there is absolutely no record in the public realm that your mother wanted sex with your own father and consented to it. There is no “evidence” that she consented.

    Given what we know about the situation, when a person is doctrinally deemed unable to choose sex or consent to it, that is called rape.

    According to your own logic, your mother was RAPED every time she had sex with your father.

    Admit that this is your logic and reasoning. Admit that your father is a rapist LIKE JEFFERSON. 🙂

    Sengge’s perverse analogy doesn’t make any sense. Your attempt to justify his perverse analogy doesn’t make any sense. It speaks only to the moral ineptitude common on this site, the ineptitude that relegates this place to a forgotten corner of Asian American political thought, disavowed when remembered.

    No it makes perfect sense, and your blather about the moral nature of other people is much devalued by your propensity to use it as your primary method of rhetoric.

    Drowning us in words is only a tool best used on the suggestible morons on your girlfriend’s site. We’re not lapping up your identity traumas and grievance politics like your cultists over there, and I think it’s amusing how you continually get owned by your own inconsistencies, hypocrisies and failures of logic here, where there is no threat of being censored or given an arbitrary ban, where you are finally before peers and betters. 😀

  174. Another thing James Lamb, we don’t need to rebut your voluminous “prose” because we’ve established that they’re mostly unfounded accusations grasping at thin air. We only need to tally the major points:

    1. Your smear campaign against people who don’t share your beliefs and dogmas have failed and by now are akin to the torrents of diarrhea running out of the anus of a desperate slave dying of cholera. So much water and not much content.

    2. Your defense of Take Down Wilson has ironically exposed it for the TOTAL SHAM that it is.

    3. You’ve indicted your own father of the rape of your mother based on the same logic and reasoning you used to indict Jefferson.

    4. You call people “ignorant of history” and yet you yourself have not displayed any SPECIFIC knowledge of any period of history. You have displayed ZERO actual historical knowledge, period.

    5. You’ve unwittingly told us that “safe spaces” means excluding people and ideas from said spaces, and enlarging these spaces to cover entire universities first and countries later.

    You are so comically inept with defending your own positions, you must be the Mr Magoo of online blog debates, if Mr Magoo never had happy accidents and is in fact one step away from Baader-Meinhof territory and with the predilection of writing ranting manifestos Universities and Airlines Bomber style.

    Tell us how you feel James, of needing to use “prose” to cover up profound stupidity?

  175. James,

    What Sengge wrote.

    Sorry, but if you’re going to condemn Thomas for sexual violence based on his station in life, you’re going to have to do the same to your own father. It’s called consistency. You act like Sengge is attacking your family, when he’s just showing your argument’s lack of a logical foundation. He’s appealing to your emotions since you’ve displayed such a disregard for logic. Do you know that Madison Hemings, whose family you’re attacking (based on the same reasoning that you’re using to play victim once again), was actually born a slave? That’s right. He knew more about slavery than you do because it was a life he actually lived.

    I’m not going to bring the internment or Vincent Chin into this. Why? Because it has nothing to do with Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings’s relationship. I don’t make arguments based on pure emotion, unless I’m arguing about emotions. In this case, we’re arguing whether a crime took place, so stuff that happened over a hundred years after Thomas and Sally’s relationship obviously has no relevance to whether that crime took place.

  176. Acknowledge the truth: if Thomas Jefferson loved and respected Sally Hemings, he would have freed her and asked for her hand in marriage.

    Page 145 is an account by the SLAVES of how Jefferson promised Martha on her deathbed, at her request, that he would never remarry. It seems Martha did not want her children to grow up under a stepmom.

    But wait…the law never said anything about making such requests!

  177. Oh, and the law never said that slaves could share their recollections. Slaves were, according to Snoopy, like horses or featherbeds. A slavemaster had a right to shut his slaves up, therefore he did. The words of Edmund Bacon and Israel Gillette must be part of a white conspiracy.

    It’s so ironic that in trying to give voices to the slaves, Snoopy is denying them their voices.

    Man, I’m so pissed off right now at all the illogical statements being posted here by Snoopy. There is no reason for any of this.

  178. Snoopy is not illogical, it is only that he have a very narrow point of view from which everything is interpreted. He reminds me of the manic as described by Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy:

    “Such is the madman of experience; he is commonly a reasoner, frequently a successful reasoner. Doubtless he could be vanquished in mere reason, and the case against him put logically. But it can be put much more precisely in more general and even aesthetic terms. He is in the clean and well-lit prison of one idea: he is sharpened to one painful point. He is without healthy hesitation and healthy complexity.”

    He has one idea. In some cases I find it appropriate to consider and bring to the forefront, other times I don’t think it properly addresses the situation. Once you start to pose problems of some complexity, the answers start to seem a little vague and bit too simplistic.

  179. You all realize that opposition to this one idea — slavery is immoral — speaks to a deep-seated support for White supremacy, not to a recognition of historical complexity. No one cares that Martha Jefferson requested that Thomas Jefferson never remarry; the obvious point is that Thomas Jefferson did not respect her half sister Sally Hemings’ humanity enough to continue their “relationship” after granting her freedom, where Hemings could choose sexual activity with Jefferson.

    He chose to maintain her bondage; people who insist on a romantic connection between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings need to address this fact.

    To defend Jefferson’s actions here is to defend slavery, an immoral institution. It is to defend White supremacy, an immoral institution. Further, it illustrates how desperate for assimilation some people are today. Apparently there is no wrong a famous White man can commit that some of you are willing to condemn, even slavery.

    So let’s recap the BigWOWO moral standard: White supremacist Presidents = honorable role models. Student activists who protest White supremacist Presidents on college campuses = dishonorable cry-bullies.

    If one’s capacity for historical complexity allows for Black enslavement but has no patience for Black protest, I suggest that one is insufficiently complex.

  180. Jman,

    I’m noticing a trend here. Someone will oppose what I say–whether it’s me saying that people need to change their way of thinking (Sengge) or me saying that Snoopy is illogical (you)–and I’ll remain silent. Then Snoopy will come in and make my point for me. In Sengge’s case, Snoopy went ballistic on Jefferson, refusing to learn about slavery before making claims about slavery, while making these unfounded accusations of rape. It supported my claims that Black Lives Matter supporters are usually ignorant and don’t care about learning. In your case, he rebutted your claim that “Snoopy is not illogical,” with:

    To defend Jefferson’s actions here is to defend slavery, an immoral institution. It is to defend White supremacy, an immoral institution.

    Only an illogical person would read what we’ve written above and say that we’re defending slavery.

    Jman, I’m not disagreeing with your point that Snoopy has a narrow point of view and only one idea, namely that Black people are oppressed by Whitey and Chang and therefore Black people are justified in doing whatever they want in retaliation. But from what you’ve written, I think in the maniac’s case, Chesterton is talking about someone who is closed-minded and only listens to one idea. The maniac is someone who refuses to listen to anything outside of his beliefs, and therefore he is “vanquished” by logic because of his refusal to listen and apply logic. In Snoopy’s case, it goes beyond that. Snoopy is illogical. His prejudices prevent him from even understanding what those outside his circle say. To read what we’ve written above and interpret it as a defense of slavery is just illogical.

  181. Here’s a great quote by Annette Gordon-Reed, who just wrote another book on Jefferson:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/books/thomas-jefferson-neither-god-nor-devil.html?emc=edit_th_20160406&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=29649347

    Ms. Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Hemingses of Monticello,” seconded the point.

    “People read history the way we watch movies, where you have a good guy and a bad guy,” she said. “What’s the point of even going to the library to do research if you already know what you think?

    She must’ve seen this thread!

  182. Here’s a quote from her co-author:

    Mr. Onuf, for his part, warned against the “narcissism” of thinking we have transcended the kind of hypocrisy and self-delusion we so readily condemn in Jefferson.

    History “should be about a deeper kind of interrogation and reflection, rather than self-admiration,” he said. “Thinking that the founding fathers are better than I am, or I’m better than they are — it’s just dumb.”

  183. Snoopy,

    But are you better than people who wrote the Declaration of Independence, founded the University of Virginia, and served this country as a strong leader when the country needed him? Also, you think you’re better, but do you think you’d be good enough to stand up to slavery back in the day when slavery was accepted and people were taught from a young age that that’s just how things are?

    Take the professor’s advice, Snoopy. Go for deeper interrogation and reflection.

  184. I believe myself, and you, better than people who owned slaves. Slavery was morally repugnant during Thomas Jefferson’s era, as it is today. There’s no defense for such a crime against humanity, then or now. The professor’s claim argues that self-admiration presents the only reason for historical moral comparisons — this is false.

    No one suggests that the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia are less than amazing achievements, to say nothing of his Presidency, but Jefferson’s lifelong commitment to an institution of servitude enforced through violence make any claims about his greatness difficult to argue.

    Further, if you are so interested in deeper interrogation and reflection, remember that Jefferson’s claims about the innate inferiority of Black people are as much a part of his historical legacy as his Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was troubled by slavery, but never troubled enough to divest himself of the practice. His Notes on the State of Virginia include passages that reek of anti-Black hate, so if you respect the historical record, BigWOWO, you must argue in favor of Jefferson knowing that he held disgusting views of people of African decent that were not commonly believed during his era.

    Selective historical memory suits no true student of history, BigWOWO.

  185. Instead of Snoopy Jenkins crying crocodile tears about historical African-American suffering, of which himself has no direct experience with in order to play the liberal guilt game, how about focusing on modern day slavery?

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/7047329/SUN-INVESTIGATION-Brit-families-buy-child-slaves.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1576727/Children-for-sale-UKs-new-slave-trade.html

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/us/sex-trafficking/

    Modern day slavery is the highest number of ANY point in human history, but society turns a blind eye to it.

  186. Child trafficking today is a serious concern, worthy of discussion Aardvark. It’s regrettable that you feel it necessary to downplay the severity of African American chattel slavery in order to make your case.

    Further, as you know a person need not have direct experience with a heinous crime to express concern about a heinous crime. BigWOWO and I engaged a discussion about history and legacy. I expect everyone — not just the liberals among us — to find fault with slave owners, just as I expect everyone, regardless of ideological background, to care about modern slavery. Don’t you agree?

  187. Snoopy,

    I think Gordon-Reed herself answered you. I’ll requote from above:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/books/thomas-jefferson-neither-god-nor-devil.html?emc=edit_th_20160406&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=29649347#sthash.R8o5Bapq.dpuf

    “People read history the way we watch movies, where you have a good guy and a bad guy,” she said. “What’s the point of even going to the library to do research if you already know what you think?”

    Jefferson was a much more complicated character then you make him out to be. Politics is much more complicated then you make it out to be. I’d ask you to read Gordon-Reed’s new book, but I remember what happened when I asked you to read her old book. A lot of the issues facing Jefferson and slavery were in that first book; I’m sure there’s even more in the latest book. In short, you’re not getting all the information you need to make an accurate evaluation of Thomas Jefferson.

  188. Funny how all of Thomas Jefferson’s ‘complicated character’ never led him to reject the South’s peculiar institution. It’s clear that many people here wish to exonerate and/or absolve Jefferson of his many moral failings, profiting from the unfree labor of other human beings chief among them. But that desire to redeem Jefferson from history’s judgement speaks more about those engaged in that project than people who refuse to forget Jefferson’s slave owning past.

    Thomas Jefferson is a man who earnestly and fervently believed in and promoted the concept of Black genetic inferiority. He believed people of African decent could not live among Whites as free and equal citizens. His backward thinking, rejected during his life by many in the colonies he served, was refuted in his own time, just as it is today. Any reasonable student of Jefferson’s history must reconcile his support for freedom and liberty with his denial of such beliefs for people of African decent, based on nothing but his personal interests in unfree labor and sexual exploitation.

    I’d ask you to read Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, but why? Slavery denialists like those I encounter here at BigWOWO.com have no interest in the detrimental effects chattel slavery wreaked on the United States and its citizens. Professor Gordon-Reed’s quote is too cute by half: no one finds Jefferson a total villain like some cinema bad guy. But we need not pretend that real human beings were not exploited and violated as a direct result of Thomas Jefferson’s ownership.

    Does this mean that Jefferson personifies evil? This the wrong question. The real question is, why should anyone exalt Jefferson as personified good? To support Jefferson’s thinking to praise the Declaration of Independence without considering his anti-Black writing in Notes on the State of Virginia is selective memory.

  189. Snoopy,simply by living and breathing in a firstworld country, you , your girlfriend and everyone here are all engaging in slavery already!

    Where did those shoes you are wearing come from? Your clothes? Electronics? Outsourced goods and software? From exploited laborers earning 1 to 2 dollars a day with barely enough to feed their families and living in a rusted metal shack with garbage strewn all over the place? I understand what you are tryingto get at but you havent seen enough ofthe world imo.

    Alot of the benefits you and everyone else mainly americans take for granted are all derived from the economic might and military supremacy of a superpower state that dictates the dynamic of power in the world. In addition to a capitalistic system that values greed and fosters inequality among people in every single way, oh and raping the planet of all its natural resources with little regard for everyones grand children.

    Now if you fast forward 1000 years from now and we are living in a more just and humane world, where society valued spiritual values such as generosity and compassion instead of greed and competition, where money doesnt exist, poverty doesnt exist, strangers are treated as family friends, there are no more wars and everybodies needs are provided for equitably and pple who are working do so to contribute to society instead of being ensnared in a futile never ending ratrace for material possesions and prestige.

    What would a society a thousand years from now, far far far more technologically and spiritually advanced from us, view our behavior, society and institutional systems?

    Would they hold us in contempt as a primitive people and society and judge us as morally reprehensible and utterly stupid? Or would they take a more non judgemental and enlightened view that perhaps the people in our time due to our ignorance and delusion fostered a society that created wars and inequality while we were also on the path towards making progress despite all our problems by making mistakes and learning from them?

    Snoopy, when you are talking about history you are talking about a very different time and place where everybody is ignorant to some degree or another about their world, we are effectively like advanced aliens to our ancestors, It isnt fair to expect even the most illustrious of people to be saints without the benefit of modern day insight.

    In absolut

  190. S”me dude,

    You speak truth.

    We’ve brought that argument to Snoopy before, and he clings to the crazy and illogical idea that foresight (which is impossible to have without ESP) is 20/20. Jefferson shoulda known! Alexander the Great was a mass murderer! Abraham was a lecherous old polygamist! Sally Hemings was below the age of consent (although only over the age of consent by today’s standards, which in his view supersede the age of consent at that time)! Snoopy and the rest of us can’t see what’s going to happen tomorrow, but somehow Thomas Jefferson is supposed to be able to see 200 years in the future.

    As you mention in your example, in 300 years, Snoopy’s descendants may judge him by the fact that he bought products made by slave labor. His taxes paid for American wars that killed children. His children might say, “Why didn’t he lead a revolt to move manufacturing back to the U.S. and subsidize it with money from fusion energy, which is so easy to create?” Or “Why didn’t great-great-great-great-great grandfather Snoopy urge Obama to use the super-plasma gun that incapacitates people without killing them?”

    Part of understanding history is understanding the human component. We’re all human. If you and I can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, why should we expect our leaders to be able to see 200 years in the future? With that kind of criteria, no one should be lionized!

    Snoopy:

    Professor Gordon-Reed’s quote is too cute by half: no one finds Jefferson a total villain like some cinema bad guy. But we need not pretend that real human beings were not exploited and violated as a direct result of Thomas Jefferson’s ownership.

    If that’s true, why are you so opposed to reading about him? Why are you opposed to treating him like a human being rather than a clairvoyant who should’ve seen how YOU live today and how he could’ve maybe lived like you? Maybe he had reasons for not getting rid of his slaves. Maybe he had reasons for not opposing slavery. You’ll never know if you don’t open your mind to learning about him.

  191. By the way, Snoopy, I just wanted to say that that human component is what makes history compelling. When you read history, you’re not reading about Superman who could fly or Spiderman who could stick to walls. You’re reading about human beings who are using their human talents to make a difference. To expect humans to have superpowers of prediction or heat-ray vision or anything other than human abilities is to set yourself up for failure.

  192. BigWOWO, no one’s opposed to learning more about Thomas Jefferson. But let’s be clear: there are NO reasons that justify owning other human beings. None.

    So whatever Jefferson’s many justifications for engaging in chattel slavery, all should be judged faulty by any civilized people. Jefferson can no more support his actions morally than any other criminal.

    Further, chattel slavery involves a total ownership of another person, for life. Little today compares. Exploited laborers earning 1 to 2 dollars a day with barely enough to feed their families and living in a rusted metal shack with garbage strewn all over the place are NOT slaves. Economically exploited people coerced into accepting anemic wages for labor-intensive work perhaps, but not slaves.

    Slaves did not regularly earn money. Slave labor benefits the master’s wealth alone. So no, iPhones and J. Crew sweaters are not made from slave labor. To characterize Western buying habits today as contributing to slave labor betrays a deep mis-characterization of American chattel slavery’s basic economic structure.

    Chattel slavery perverts the human experience orders of magnitude more than wage exploitation. This is an important distinction because many today lack historical reference for the lifelong depravity chattel slavery represents in the American experience. Very little in the modern world approximate these conditions, and nothing in the modern world does so with full legal and social support from a internationally recognized government. American chattel slavery by historical definition operated with full legal and social protection; indeed, it served as the major economic engine of the Southern British American colonies and later the Southern United States for generations.

    Economic exploitation presents a vexing labor problem for globalization, but it’s not chattel slavery. Apple Computer and the Gap can’t force underpaid teenage laborers in China and Taiwan to procreate with wealthy, learned executives. Thomas Jefferson, however, could and did force teenage slaves to procreate with him.

    People who rush to exonerate Jefferson without recognizing his sordid history deny the very record they pretend to examine fairly.

  193. Snoopy:

    But let’s be clear: there are NO reasons that justify owning other human beings. None.

    So whatever Jefferson’s many justifications for engaging in chattel slavery, all should be judged faulty by any civilized people.

    We’ve talked at length about your cultural monolingualism, but it seems apparent to me that you’re also historically monolingual, that is, you only understand the culture and background of your own time. You don’t understand your privilege of hindsight, nor do you understand that people’s understanding of the world evolves over time. And because you’re culturally monolingual, you only understand your own culture within your own time. That’s awfully narrow.

    I simply don’t see the point in having me talk about the economic reliance on slavery, the fragility of the American nation-state at the time, the long history of slavery as an accepted institution, the promises made by politicians to their constituents, or the many battles that were fought on multiple fronts by people who lived at that time. I don’t see the point in me telling you about the fears that people had back in the day. Entire processes and cultural mores were different back then. What’s the point in me talking about this when there are ENTIRE BOOKS written about it, one of which you said you’d read but never did. I can’t force you to learn.

    Seriously, Snoopy, what’s the point? You’re so emotionally invested in being right that no one can prove you wrong. Not me, not an expert historian like Annette Gordon-Reed, not anyone. You won’t crack open a history book because you only care about being right.

    This is why I say that the Far Left and the Trumpkins are just two sides of the exact same coin. Neither cares about the facts. Neither is seeking solutions. Both just want to vent.

  194. I simply don’t see the point in having me talk about the economic reliance on slavery, the fragility of the American nation-state at the time, the long history of slavery as an accepted institution, the promises made by politicians to their constituents, or the many battles that were fought on multiple fronts by people who lived at that time. I don’t see the point in me telling you about the fears that people had back in the day. Entire processes and cultural mores were different back then. What’s the point in me talking about this when there are ENTIRE BOOKS written about it, one of which you said you’d read but never did. I can’t force you to learn. – BigWOWO

    You offer defenses and justifications for slavery. None of that is morally justifiable or culturally acceptable. Our conflict does not revolve around any disinterest in learning on my part.

    Our conflict involves your interest in defending and justifying slavery. You present yourself as someone interested only in historical fact, but your statements illustrate someone interested only in expressing support for the degradation and subjugation of Black people.

    This isn’t about historical incuriousness. This is about historical racism.

  195. Snoopy,

    That seems to be your go-to response. Someone challenges your worldview, and you scream and holler racism. I tell you that you don’t know the facts, and rather than correct your lack of knowledge, you scream and holler racism.

    BigWOWO, since you’re so interested in redeeming Jefferson, check out this new novel…

    This is also typical of our conversation. I tell you to learn the facts and refer to you to a book on history. You respond by recommending a fictional novel. Snoopy, I don’t need to read this guy’s fiction; you already provide enough with your fictional portrayal of what you think life during the 1800’s was like.

  196. I already know the facts about slavery. You pretend slavery can be defended, based on available knowledge during Jefferson’s era. It cannot. This is why your defense of chattel slavery and Thomas Jefferson reflects racism, and not logical reasoning.

    But you are not alone in this perversity, as this new Stephen O’Connor novel suggests. Obviously, I ‘recommended’ this novel to illustrate the lengths some go to redeem Jefferson from historical judgment. The review I linked above is the real point: Jefferson was a rapist, but scholars and novelists alike choose to downplay this fact to satisfy romantic notions of African subjugation in the Americas. You deny slavery’s impact because you both fail to understand slavery and because you’re generally unconcerned with Black suffering, BigWOWO.

    No one’s screaming and hollering. I’m just remarking on the historical record without romantic notions or fictional embellishment. Jefferson was a rapist who owned people and you pretend that behavior was honorable and understandable. In public. This behavior, from Jefferson and from his apologists like yourself, is less than moral.

  197. That’s some amazing doublespeak you’ve got going there, James. I wonder if your readers are just hypnotized by the volume of empty prose or if your own thought processes are truly THAT convoluted and illogical.

    “I’m just remarking on the historical record without romantic notions or fictional embellishment.”

    But that’s exactly what you did. You remarked on the historical record by asking us to check out a work of fiction.

    This is quite remarkable. You know, bald-faced lying is often a sign and symptom of psychopathy and sociopathy. Perhaps this is something to investigate further. 😀

  198. Sengge, as I stated before, I suggested the novel because it operates under the same premise BigWOWO’s used throughout this debate, that the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is best classified as something other than rape.

    The novel, along with Professor Gordon Reed’s scholarship, attempts to redeem Jefferson’s reputation while allowing all his descendants to openly display their connection to the third President, without regard to race.

    The problem is that to acknowledge Jefferson’s Black relations is to acknowledge Jefferson’s repeated rape of his human property. O’Connor’s novel sidesteps this through romance; Gordon Reed’s work attempts much the same argument, though the factual basis for asserting a romantic connection between the two has been found lacking for generations.

    What we know from Gordon Reed’s work is that Thomas Jefferson fathered several of Sally Hemings’ children. But any attempt to classify that procreation as something other than rape strains logic and morality to the breaking point. That’s what BigWOWO has done in this conversation, and that’s why he’s been called out. Thomas Jefferson was a rapist slave owner, and to consider his actions toward Sally Hemings valid given the moral perspectives of the time is to excuse as moral and good today what was considered evil during Jefferson’s era.

    Further, I fear that if we were discussing the reputations of the Japanese military leaders that authorized the abductions of Chinese and Korean women for sexual servitude in comfort stations during World War II, BigWOWO would have a different perspective on those leaders moral and ethical failures. I suspect that because Thomas Jefferson bought, sold, terrorized, assaulted, and raped Black people to maintain his plantation, that BigWOWO and other view his actions as ‘moral given the standards of the era’.

    Some people in this debate lack the capacity to empathize with Black suffering, and this betrays deep-seated anti-Black racism, not some interest in historical accuracy.

  199. James James James. Bringing works of fiction and comics into factual and historical discussions only works in your wife’s blog. Don’t try this here. We won’t be hypnotized by your paralogics. Try your own wife’s blog, where you can manufacture rape charges out of thin air, and also use vulnerable young women to turn definitively NOT sexual assault into sexual assault.

    Just the wrong crowd James. I understand you constantly try to push the envelope to see what else you can get away with, but James, hello. Your psychopath mask slipping up much? Is the stress from the coming sprog getting to you? Maybe you should try meditation, James. LMAO!

  200. Sengge, none of your ridiculousness changes the fact that in order to support Thomas Jefferson’s reputation in this space, BigWOWO’s engaged in indefensible chattel slavery denial. The professors who defend Thomas Jefferson rely on the belief that historical figures cannot be evaluated based on their descendants’ morality. My argument is clear: this belief is flawed and unpersuasive, and serves only to downplay the human suffering historical figures like Thomas Jefferson wrought on innocent people.

    What’s more, even in Jefferson’s own era, his rape of Sally Hemings was considered vile and morally suspect, so no one has to engage in any historical revisionism in order to condemn Jefferson’s behavior. When people choose to ignore Jefferson’s rape of his slaves, in nonfiction and fiction, they suggest only that the crimes against humanity slave owners like Thomas Jefferson inflicted on people of African decent do not matter. Public consensus does not allow such indifference toward victims of the Holocaust, nor does it allow such indifference toward victims of Japanese internment.

    But with American chattel slavery, apparently some college professors and novelists and bloggers publicly insist that the commonplace rape and forced procreation imposed by middle-aged slave owners like Thomas Jefferson on teenage slaves like Sally Hemings displays no moral or ethical lapse whatsoever, and that Jefferson’s considerable achievements should be recalled without any comment on his sordid treatment of Black people. This is the stance that BigWOWO’s assumed in this argument, and this stance indicates, to my mind, prejudice toward Black people.

    The parallel I drew above deserves repeating. One cannot justify the forced prostitution of Chinese and Korean comfort women by imperial Japan with the suggestion that Japanese morals and ethics at the time allowed for enforced, government-run gang rape of colonized women. In kind, American chattel slavery and Thomas Jefferson’s own slave owner conduct cannot be justified by pretending that Enlightenment morality allowed for the commonplace sexual servitude of African women by European slave owners. If history serves any human purpose agnostic neutrality toward historical atrocity cannot persist in historical scholarship.

  201. Snoopy,

    I’m not interested in reading this novel. I’ll just tell you that flat out. My time is better spent doing other things that are more within my field of interest.

    We’re not discussing literature here. We’re discussing history. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but you don’t study novels in history class; you study history books. If you want to learn about Sally Hemings or Thomas Jefferson, you read history, not novels. You read nonfiction, not fiction. If you want to know how Jefferson treated his slaves, read a work of research, not a work of imagination. Speak in fact; don’t just make things up (“Rapist!”).

    It bears repeating once again: Your charges of “rape” are not grounded in evidence. Where’s the evidence, James? There are 212 comments on this thread, many of them yours, and you’ve presented not one shred of evidence as to your “rape” charges. You’ve not refuted Gordon-Reed because you refuse to read Gordon-Reed. If Jefferson is innocent until proven guilty, then the burden of proof is on you. Your dignity depends on it.

    Some people in this debate lack the capacity to empathize with Black suffering, and this betrays deep-seated anti-Black racism, not some interest in historical accuracy.

    How does your “Black suffering” have anything to do with the facts of how Jefferson treated Sally Hemings or how he treated his slaves? This is textbook narcissism…”I suffered racism, therefore the facts no longer matter!” “Society is racist, so I don’t care that Michael Brown tried to murder a cop!” Snoopy, I’m just going to say this straight-forward in a way that I hope you understand. You may have suffered racism. You may be angry at White people or Asian people for real or perceived slights. But that has nothing to do with Thomas Jefferson or Sally Hemings and how they really lived. I’m sorry, but “Black suffering” should be no excuse for ignorance. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean that those of us who’ve put the time and work into reading about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings should roll over and consider our knowledge equal to someone who hasn’t, simply because that someone is once again crying racism.

  202. So wait, you think because you read a book once on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings that you can invalidate people who recognize through their own lifelong scholarship and basic logic that Thomas Jefferson was a rapist slave owner? Is this what all of this is about?

    BigWOWO, do you just want credit for reading a book once?

    Wow. Well, congratulations on your extensive (lol!) reading of the vast canon of Jefferson scholarship! It’s amazing to me how you’ve read all meaningful words on the subject, contained in one book written by one professor! How convenient for you that such vast knowledge was contained in such a small package, but kudos to you for reading that one text. Once.

    It’s comical: the only slight, real or perceived, that you’re willing to entertain is the fact that I couldn’t care less that you read one book once. You haven’t at any point in this debate justified your backward theories about Jefferson or the study of history itself, and I’ve countered your ignorant mewling at every turn. But that’s ok: because BigWOWO read a book once! On slavery! Amazing! Gold star BigWOWO! You’re a credit to your race!

    Look BigWOWO, I don’t ask you to consider my knowledge of American chattel slavery equal to yours. My knowledge on this subject vastly outpaces yours in every conceivable way. But if you’d like to catch up, don’t worry! I have a solution.

    Now, I know the following might be difficult; you tend to respond negatively when I recommend books to you. But since you’re done with the Herculean task of reading one of Gordon Reed’s books, there are some others you might wish to peruse, to gain some basic understanding of American chattel slavery. Here’s a few selections from my bookshelf; don’t hurt yourself trying to read them all at once. We all know how difficult reading Gordon Reed has been for you.

    Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present
    Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
    Southern Slavery and the Law 1619 – 1860
    Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

    Since you’re so concerned with history, since you’ve proven you can handle the reading, these texts should be a breeze! Three of these won the Bancroft Prize in American History, and come highly recommended by me, someone who has studied slavery for a lifetime. Happy reading!

  203. Uh…Snoopy? Once you calm down, I hope you realize that even though I’ve only read one book on the Jefferson/Hemings family…that’s still one more book than you’ve read.

    In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. It’s much the same here. In the land of the ignorant about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the guy who’s read one book is king. That’s why you’re having so much trouble providing any specifics about Jefferson. The good news is it’ll only take one book for you to get to where I am.

  204. I concede that you are the leader when it comes to foolish arguments that pretend that Thomas Jefferson isn’t a rapist, BigWOWO. That being said, you are far from the expert here on American chattel slavery. I am. That’s why I know you are wrong.

    But good for you for reading a book. Once. I’m sure it was an incredible achievement for you.

  205. Labor of Love is on your bookshelf, James? Then why the hell are you so mean to African American women and take potshots at them whenever you can?

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