A historical perspective of Thomas Jefferson
Written by Jennifer Cosgrove|
November 16, 2015
Discussion is one of the most powerful, effective and necessary components of a progressive society. Individuals must challenge preconceived notions, break through barriers of concrete morality and shape a future for humanity. This all involves a high level of open-mindedness, which I deem absent from a current protest on campus. Recently, the Thomas Jefferson statue was covered in notes saying “rapist,” “bigot,” etc. Upon seeing this, I could not help but become overwhelmingly irritated at the aggressive and one-dimensional manner of the protest. The notes effectively sparked discussion, yes, but their message is entirely a product of a society that sees the world as black and white; you’re either politically correct, or you’re wrong.
Our country’s history is a multi-dimensional realm of stories and lessons; one that requires open-minded discussions to be made useful for our modern day world.
Thomas Jefferson indeed committed humanitarian crimes. I am not negating that, nor am I downplaying the gravity of his heinous actions. What I will do is put these actions into proper context. Thomas Jefferson lived in an America where privileged white males had servants and slaves, and where women were bound by rules of the patriarchy. He lived at a time when African Americans were considered 3/5 human. This was an age where abuse, ownership and cruelty were not thought twice about. These were the sins of his society: the darkness contrasting the revolutionary light, a collective wrong.
That all being said, does this mean his reverence, his statue, his status as a founding father should be removed?
No, it does not.
If you peruse a history textbook, or simply walk around campus, it should be clear to see that humanity’s past has built upon itself to give us our present day. Every single event in history has contributed to what our society is, and what it will be. Our country’s history is a multi-dimensional realm of stories and lessons; one that requires open-minded discussions to be made useful for our modern day world. Calling for the removal of a statue because a white male lawyer in the 18th century owned a slave is not logical, nor does it make us a progressive society.
Progression results from understanding all aspects of who Jefferson was. It is looking at his statue and comprehending the evils, revering the intellect and combining both into a lesson for a better tomorrow. Just as we do not tear up the Constitution (which happened to be written by white, bigoted male lawyers), we do not remove a symbol of America’s founding. It is certainly not just to turn a blind eye on the evils of the past, but it is not right to ignore the greatness that might have dwelled in the same century, and even in the same man.
Email Jenny Cosgrove at [email protected]