Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Does Thomas Jefferson Need to Go? And Other Thoughts on Revising the Past

You have probably seen the news. The New York City Council voted unanimously this week to remove the seven-foot-tall, 100-year-old statue of Thomas Jefferson from their chamber in City Hall. The statue of the founder of the University of Virginia, and the author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the Declaration of Independence, will be relocated to the New York Historical Society, which pledged “to present the statue in a historical context that captured Jefferson’s legacy as a founding father, but also as a man who enslaved more than 600 people and fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemings.”

It’s Jefferson’s treatment of enslaved people that has caused this reassessment, but that is only part of his record. I have written about Thomas Jefferson’s policies toward Native peoples on this blog. I hope you will take a look at that piece again. In our current period of refreshing historical revisionism, Native Americans are still too often left out of the equation. On a stolen continent, that is unfortunate.

The City Council’s action has provoked the expected response from the expected people. Donald Trump, the former president, chimed in from wherever the hell he is these days, with a predictable denunciation of all things on the left. “The late, great Thomas Jefferson, one of our most important Founding Fathers,” he wrote, “and a principal writer of the Constitution of the United States, is being ‘evicted’ from the magnificent New York City Council Chamber.”

Liz Harrington on Twitter: "NEW! President Donald J. Trump: "Well, it's  finally happened. The late, great Thomas Jefferson, one of our most  important Founding Fathers, and a principal writer of the Constitution

Jefferson, of course, had nothing to do with the Constitution. He was in Paris when it was written. It is not the first time that Trump has made historical errors and it will not be the last.

Look, even though this statue is being relocated, historians will continue to teach and write about Jefferson, and students will learn no less about him than they did previously. This is not an “erasing” of history. It is a revision. And it is fundamental to the historical enterprise.

American history is being revised all the time in scholarship, but also in public spaces, in the streets, and at sites of commemoration. As this latest story shows, it also is taking place in city hall chambers. A statue of Jefferson is, in a sense, a historical argument–a statement on an American leader’s worth, on his accomplishments, and on his failures. Acts of vandalism committed on Columbus statues, and votes to remove statues of dead presidents, are commentaries and rebuttals to interpretations of the American past that individuals and groups now find objectionable.

History is such a fraught subject—it always has been, but now, especially so. It matters. And the work historians do is often implicated in assaults on what makes this country great, a menace to what the Boston Review called the “fragile patriotism of the American Conservative.” If only we would stop harping on the bad stuff.

Virginia Politics Episode 9: Thomas Jefferson and decorum in the General  Assembly - Daily Press
Sit Yourself Right Down. Let’s Talk About History

So let me give you a definition: for those of us who are historians for our living, history is the study of continuity and change, measured across time and space, in peoples, institutions, and cultures. That is a definition I use a lot. It is one I share with my students regularly. History is not a science, but it is a discipline.  When we do our work properly, I tell my students, we ask questions about the past, we dig like badgers for the evidence we need to answer these questions, we examine and assess this evidence with our eyes, ears, and hearts open, and then try to present our answers with a measure of grace and style.  We must be truthful and honest, always, when it comes to this evidence. That is fundamental. We want to persuade you that our answer is right, our thesis correct, and our questions important. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail. The measure of the effectiveness of our arguments must be the quality of the evidence and the strength of our reasoning.

 As a result, history can be a brutal business.  We question everything. We are not in the business of telling you what you want to hear.  History can provide us with an explanation for what happened, why, and the difference it made, but it seldom provides us with comfort, and solace, and your cherished myths will find no shelter with us around. It can be dark and violent and, at times, filled with heroism and bravery indeed, but there is also deceit and evil.  When the great ancient Greek historian Thucydides wrote in his history of the Peloponnesian War, that “war is a violent teacher,” it was for him not a comforting story at all, but one of the darkest, most brutal depictions of human nature to appear in the western tradition.

And about those questions that historians ask.  When I was taught long ago how to be a historian in my research methods class at California State University at Long Beach, my professor emphasized the importance of objectivity.  Several years later, one of the professors that I studied with at Syracuse wrote at length about the historic emergence of objectivity as a value in historical scholarship. Many of those who criticize our work may raise objections that we are biased, and driven by our agendas to predetermined outcomes, that we lack objectivity. That is the point that I suspect Donald Trump was trying to make, however awkward the execution.  Bias and prejudice and ideology can indeed cause the undisciplined student of the past to ask loaded or bad questions, or to read the evidence in a distorted manner, to make it say things that it does not say.  That is bad history.  But our preconceptions, as well, which we can think of as the lenses through which we look at the world, color our perceptions of what is good and bad, right and wrong. They are the lenses through which we see the world.

The point I would like to make is that all historical writing, whether it is the essay assigned you by teacher or professor, or a term paper, or a doctoral dissertation or a book, is an attempt to answer a question.  And whether we are on the right or the left, the questions that present themselves to us as historians—that strike us as important, and worth answering, and worth investing all the time, travel, expense and energy to answer, come to us from our experiences in life, and in the archives, from our hard work, and, quite often, from our sense that all is not well.

Doing history well forces us to always be willing to reconsider our assumptions, and sometimes it involves so profound a reassessment that it becomes difficult to abide, for example, the continued presence of statues or monuments commemorating a particular part of the past. These statutes—these monuments—are texts, right? They make a claim, state an assertion about the past. They argue for the significance of this, or that, or another person, place, or thing. They offer an interpretation, and the assumptions and the evidence behind those assertions—it is our job as citizens and scholars to question them.

If you want to keep statues of Thomas Jefferson around, make your case. Engage in debate. Some good historians with whom I probably disagree on many points made their arguments. Not many of those who want to preserve these statues are willing to do that. Like the former president, they whine about being cancelled. One of the many problems plaguing this nation is a steep decline in the value placed on free and open debate. You want to keep Jefferson, others don’t. Let’s have an argument. Let’s urgently engage in some good, old-fashioned, unsettling Socratic dialogue.

I think back to a Pew Research study that was released in the summer of 2019. According to the data, the percentage of Republicans who saw value in a college education fell from 53% in 2012 to just 23% in 2019. Nearly 80% of Republicans believed higher education is headed in the wrong direction because of professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom. Republicans were far more likely than Democrats (73% to 56%) to assert that the problem of students not receiving skills they need to succeed in the workplace is a major reason why higher education is headed in the wrong direction. And three-quarters of Republican respondents felt that rampant political correctness is a significant problem.

As someone who has spent the last three decades on college campus as a student and a professor, I have some thoughts on this. All of my time has been spent at non-elite institutions, all but the four I spent in graduate school at Syracuse in public institutions of higher education. With the exception of one year at the University of Houston, I have never taught at a college with a doctoral program. And all my time in higher education has been spent in departments of history. I will speak of what I know first-hand.

It is true that the history profession as a whole leans leftward. There are a couple of points that need to be made about that. First, it is not that the academy chooses professors on the left; rather, it is people on the left who tend to choose academia. There is something about this constituency for whom years of education, the isolation and hard work of graduate school, the meager pay and the likelihood of never finding tenure-track employment, are not insurmountable obstacles. Many of them want to serve. They want to teach.

But more importantly, let’s say that you are a student in my Native American history course. Politically, I lean to the left. You can see that in many of my blog posts here. How might my course in Native American history be different from an identical course taught by a conservative professor? I have had this conversation before. I will emphasize the “bad stuff,” you might suggest, and cast American history in a negative light. Maybe I will beat up Thomas Jefferson. I may leave out any of the positive things in Native American history. OK.

What are those good things, I might ask? Could you name some of them? In Native American history? And are the negative things I mention in class, or in the textbook this website is intended to accompany, incorrect as matters of fact or interpretation? Have I not played by the rules? Have I ignored the canons of the historical profession? The truth is that how I teach my course, and how a Conservative might teach a course in Native American history, should not differ much if we both pay equal attention to the standards of argumentation, research, and evidence that serve as the canons of the discipline of history.

The point, you see, is not that a historian might bring his or her political and social views into the classroom. Some do, and they do so excessively. Some Conservative professors do too, like the Iraqi Seventh-Day Adventist at my old school in Montana who regularly told his students that African Americans were moving to Billings because it was easier there to commit crimes, or the self-professed expert on the history of lynching who told his students there was absolutely nothing objectionable about Lee Atwater’s infamous “Willy Horton” ad.

And as for preaching and indoctrinating? Relax. I can tell you that there is no way to lose an audience of 18-22 year olds faster than to be that old dude up there preaching. A better question involves asking how my prejudices and biases and interests and concerns shape what I present to my students. If you are willing to cry out that “Leftist” professors are indoctrinating their students, my reasonable response would be to ask you to prove it. Nor is it unreasonable for us to ask you to make a case as to where you think our interpretation is wrong. I will gladly listen to you. But at a certain point you need to put up or shut up. We all do. A historian without evidence is as useless as a pundit.

And when you tell me where you think I went wrong, I will also ask you questions. That is entirely fair. That is what a Socratic style of teaching is all about. These questions are designed to help you sharpen your thinking, to explore elements of your argument you may have overlooked, to consider your position from another perspective. I am also asking because I want to give you an opportunity to educate me. If I am honest, I must admit that I can learn from all my students, whatever their background, their religion, their politics. And by asking you to explore your own thinking, you learn in ways that you cannot from rote memorization, the type of soul-killing education still taking place in high schools across the country. We will ask you how you know what you claim to know. We will ask you, “What is the evidence that supports that claim?” “Why do you believe what you believe?” Sometimes, and just sometimes, in the face of questions like these members of our audiences will feel like they have been silenced. This is not censorship. It may be insecurity. Or a discomfort about engaging in debate. It is also possible that it is a simple matter of them having little interest in learning, and not having much worthwhile to say at all.

It Is Time to Talk about Thomas Jefferson’s Policies toward Native Americans

One letter more than many others encapsulates Thomas Jefferson’s Indian policy.  On this day in 1803, Jefferson wrote that letter to William Henry Harrison, then the governor of Indiana Territory.

My first paper in grad school was an exploration of Jefferson’s Indian policy.  Wish I still had a copy of that.  Jefferson’s views of Indians, I believed, were shaped by his understanding of the Ancient Saxons who inhabited England in the centuries before the Norman Conquest.  Among Jefferson’s favorite books were Arthur Gordon’s translation of Tacitus, which included a long, running commentary in the notes comparing the Ancient Saxons to native peoples in America; or the works of the Scottish historian William Robertson or the Scottish philosopher Adam Ferguson, both of whom saw connections between the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles and Native IllustrationAmericans.  It is, as I pointed out in my first book, a common theme in English thought about native peoples.  When Theodor DeBry etched his engravings based on the artwork of John White, who painted those memorable images of the Carolina Outer Banks in 1585, he included pictures of the “Picts” in order to show that “the inhabitants of the great Bretannie have bin in times past as sauvage as those of Virginia.”  At Jamestown, William Strachey, John Rolfe, and many others pointed out that the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles had once lived like the Algonquian peoples they then were encountering.

Historians like Ronald Meek, Hugh A. MacDougall, H. Trevor Colbourn, and Arthur Ferguson all explored this style of thinking.  All societies passed through four stages as they became more civilized, beginning with hunting and gathering, graduating from there to a pastoral mode of living, to settled agriculture, and, finally, the urban life of the city.  In his famous book on Jefferson’s economic thought, Drew McCoy argued that Jefferson struggled throughout his career to preserve for America the third stage, to keep the country an agrarian republic and, he hoped, to avoid the inequality and brutality he perceived in urban life.

I left this project behind long ago. It strikes me now as too much a project about books, too much discussion of what was going on in Jefferson’s library and in the intellectual centers in Europe and America instead of what was going on in native towns and villages, where my interests lie now.

Still, there is little doubt that Jefferson believed that native peoples, like the Ancient Britons, could progress from their “primitive” origins.  Two years before his death, Jefferson spelled this out on a broad, continental scale in a letter to William Ludlow.   “Let a philosophic observer commence a journey from the savages of the Rocky Mountains, eastwardly towards our sea-coast,” he wrote. “These he would observe in the earliest stage of association living under no law but that of nature, subscribing and covering themselves with the flesh and skins of wild beasts. He would next find those on our frontiers in the pastoral state, raising domestic animals to supply the defects of hunting. Then succeed our own semi-barbarous citizens, the pioneers of the advance of civilization, and so in his progress he would meet the gradual shades of improving man until he would reach his, as yet, most improved state in our seaport towns. This, in fact, is equivalent to a survey, in time, of the progress of man from the infancy of creation to the present day.”

Jeffersonian “philanthropy,” the name that Bernard Sheehan gave to his Indian policies, was informed by this historical style of thought. As he told a delegation of Cherokee chiefs who visited him in Washington early in 1806, “You are becoming farmers, learning the use of the plough and the hoe, enclosing your grounds and employing that labor in their cultivation which you formerly employed in hunting and in war; and I see handsome specimens of cotton cloth raised, spun and wove by yourselves.” The President told the Cherokees that he was optimistic for their future. “You are also raising cattle and hogs for your food, and horses to assist your labors. Go on, my children,” he continued, “in the same way and be assured the further you advance in it the happier and more respectable you will be.” Become like us.  You will live better.  And as you do so, you will need less land, which we shall be happy to take off your hands.  Taking, as Gregory Evans Dowd put it, was portrayed as giving.

Respectability.  In Jefferson’s view the Cherokees were making progress. Other Indian nations looked to the advancing Cherokees and found themselves wanting in comparison. That is what Jefferson believed.  And, for the Cherokees, this was only the beginning.

You will find your next want to be mills to grind your corn, which by relieving your women from the loss of time in beating it into meal, will enable them to spin and weave more. When a man has enclosed and improved his farm, builds a good house on it and raised plentiful stocks of animals, he will wish when he dies that these things shall go to his wife and children, whom he loves more than he does his other relations, and for whom he will work with pleasure during his life. You will, therefore, find it necessary to establish laws for this. When a man has property, earned by his own labor, he will not like to see another come and take it from him because he happens to be stronger, or else to defend it by spilling blood. You will find it necessary then to appoint good men, as judges, to decide contests between man and man, according to reason and to the rules you shall establish. If you wish to be aided by our counsel and experience in these things we shall always be ready to assist you with our advice.

Not all of them wanted that advice, and when they did, it was on their own terms.  Jefferson’s philanthropy always walked hand in hand with coercion, and that is what makes his letter to William Henry Harrison so revealing. His philanthropy, as Bernard Sheehan put it so long ago, contained within it the “seeds of extinction.” Jefferson’s solution to the “Indian Problem” was to make Indians disappear.  Either they would assimilate and blend into the American body politic, or they would leave. Jefferson pursued the removal of the Cherokees long before Andrew Jackson became President.  And native peoples, quite clearly, never saw much attractive in accommodating themselves to his understanding of the path they should take. And when native peoples ignored or resisted his efforts, which in essence involved compressing his understanding of a millennia of English history into the prescription for the eight short years of this presidency, he used all means necessary to remove them.

So, back to Jefferson’s letter to Harrison.

You will receive herewith an answer to your letter as President of the Convention: and from the Secretary at War you receive from time to time information & instructions as to our Indian affairs. these communications being for the public records are restrained always to particular objects & occasions. but this letter being unofficial, & private, I may with safety give you a more extensive view of our policy respecting the Indians, that you may the better comprehend the parts dealt out to you in detail through the official channel, and observing the system of which they make a part, conduct yourself in unison with it in cases where you are obliged to act without instruction.

When historians see something like this, their eyes light up. Jefferson is writing with no other audience in mind but Harrison, and here he will be frank, open, and honest, words not usually used to describe him.

Our system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by every thing just & liberal which we can do for them within the bounds of reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people.

Jefferson was well aware of the Trade and Intercourse Act, which attempted to regulate those instances where native peoples and white Americans came into contact. The laws were geared towards keeping the peace, avoiding a dust-up that might lead to a wider war.  But as white people arrived in the vicinity of Indian settlements, even those who were peacefully inclined, changes occurred on the land. “The decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient, we wish to draw them to agriculture, to spinning & weaving,” Jefferson told Harrison.  Here is the civilization program described once again. And native peoples were willing to make some changes.

The latter branches [i.e. spinning and weaving] they take up with great readiness, because they fall to the women, who gain by quitting the labours of the field for those which are exercised within doors. When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests, and will be willing to pare them off from time to time in exchange for necessaries for their farms & families.”

Jefferson wanted the process to move quickly.  “To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare & we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare & they want, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good & influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop th[em off] by a cession of lands.”  Debt as a tool leading to dispossession: it is all here in Jefferson’s letter. And he continued:

At our trading houses too we mean to sell so low as merely to repay us cost and charges so as neither to lessen or enlarge our capital. This is what private traders cannot do, for they must gain; they will consequently retire from the competition, & we shall thus get clear of this pest without giving offence or umbrage to the Indians. In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe & approach the Indians, & they will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the US. or remove beyond the Mississippi. the former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves. but in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love.

And what else?

As to their fear, we presume that our strength & their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, & that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be fool-hardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe & driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation.

Jefferson reminded Harrison in the closing paragraph to keep this letter private, and by no means to allow the Indians to understand his devious scheme to draw their leaders into debts that could only be satisfied by the cession of their followers’ lands.

I find little to like in Thomas Jefferson. I have always felt that way.  He was a beautiful writer at times, but he frittered away his talents.  I think here of his discussion of race in his Notes on the State of Virginia or his sad and creepy letter to Maria Cosway.  He was seldom courageous, more adrift in than in command of the intellectual currents that swirled about him.  And he was almost never direct.   His letter to Harrison, in this sense, is indicative of his policies and his character.


The Right’s War on History

There is a guy named Bob Lonsberry who has hosted a local right-wing radio show here in Rochester for many years.  I have mentioned him before on this blog in response to his tweets some months back about Columbus Day.  Lonsberry, who about a decade and a half ago was suspended from his job for referring to the city’s African-American mayor as “a monkey,” and who whole-heartedly endorsed the Clown Prince of Mar-A-Lago’s characterization of those parts of the world where people aren’t white as “shitholes,” recently tried to read Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello. The book won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, deservedly so in my view.  But Lonsberry gave up after attempting to read it, he tweeted, because “the America hatred was just too much. The next generation of historians will probably have to spend most of their careers scrubbing the bias of this generation of historians.”

My purpose here is not to beat up on Lonsberry, but on the type of thinking he expressed in this tweet. It is a style of reactionary thought with which historians commonly have to contend.  We always have and, I suspect, we always will.  We had better prepare our students for engaging in this debate.

When I began my teaching career almost a quarter-century ago in Montana, I waded into the controversy over the National History Standards released by UCLA’s National Center for History in the Schools.  I had seen Lynne Cheney’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal proclaiming “The End of History,” and, for reasons I cannot entirely explain, I somehow stumbled across an episode of Rush Limbaugh’s television program (Yeah, he had one) where he sat at his desk tearing pages out of a US history textbook.  That, he said, was what liberal college professors were doing to American history.

I ordered a copy of the Standards, read them, and realized quite quickly that the National History Standards did nothing more than bring together a list of subjects that its creators felt students ought to know about the American past. It brought together what historians of the United States had been talking about and writing about for a generation. What lunatics like Limbaugh and ideologues like Cheney denounced as “politically correct” was, in my view, a more historically accurate recasting of American history that wrestled with the complexity of the nation’s past. And, yes, that included wrestling with some of the darkness in the historical record.  Students ought to understand slavery, in all its complexity, and they ought to know that the growth and expansion of the United States came at the expense of millions of native peoples who succumbed to epidemic disease, were dispossessed, or destroyed in war.

So I wrote an op-ed in the Billings Gazette. It received some applause, and made for me some friends, but I also got plenty of really ugly hate mail. For there has always been a tension when it comes to teaching American history.  For some, history ought to form the foundation of American civic education, and in that sense its cardinal purpose is to instill in students a love of country and patriotism.  Casting a critical gaze at the United States, in this view, undercuts that goal.  At another level, however, history is an academic discipline, the study of continuity and change, measured across time and space, in peoples, institutions and cultures. Civics vs. the imperatives of the discipline of history. Historians ask questions about the past and conduct research and collect the evidence necessary to answer these questions. Historians ask questions about all sorts of things, and almost any document or artifact can become, in this way, a historical source, even the tweets of a right-wing radio talk show host.  Sometimes these questions force us historians to look evil in the face, to stare into the darkness, and to ask, “Why?”  And that can be an unsettling question.

I have taught for a long time. Because I teach early American history and Native American history, I end up telling some pretty horrifying stories to my students. In my early American courses, I talk about slavery, an institution which enriched white people and which simply could not have existed without the pervasive and systematic use of violence.  To explain the sinister ways that slavery corrupted everything it touched, how the cancer that was this institution bored its way into the dark heart of this continent, I talk about Jefferson, about how this great intellect, when it came to slavery, spent his time wondering aloud about the odor of Africans, their sexual ardor, the location of their color in their skin.  Slavery twisted and corrupted him.  And I tell the students, because I have to, that the author of the “Declaration of Independence,” who believed that “all men were created equal,” owned his in-laws and had a sexual relationship with his slave.  That Jefferson owned and exploited Hemings was not news to historians–the evidence was out there. But Annette Gordon-Reed in her first book proved that case beyond reasonable doubt, and in her second, the book that Bob Lonsberry thought was filled with “America hatred,” she explained, among other things, why we should care.

Look, when I tell my students these stories or, better, when they read them on their own in an assignment or as part of their research, they are disturbed by the viciousness and the violence they uncover.  But they tell me every single semester that they are appalled that these stories were hidden from them by their high school teachers. They feel like they were cheated or misled. High school teachers: if you lie to your students, or feed them patriotic propaganda, and they will remember you and judge you harshly.

The kind of sentiment expressed by Bob Lonsberry—we who study the past have seen it before. It is a standard conservative critique, boiled down to a few characters, of the entire historical enterprise.  But it is pernicious and racist, and we should work harder than we do now to counter it.

In 2009 I left Geneseo briefly to teach at the University of Houston. I arrived at the time the Texas state education agency was reconsidering its American history standards.  The state became the butt of jokes for a proposed set of standards that white-washed American history, diminished the cruelty of slavery, and mentioned the state’s complicated history with its native peoples not at all.  There were other problems, too numerous to mention here.  I organized a discussion of the new standards. My colleagues in the history department were extraordinarily supportive, as were the school of education at UH and the director of the University’s Honors College.  One of the proponents of the new social studies framework had said on television that “a bad day in the United States is better than a good day anywhere else,” and that history education ought to reflect that.  It should convey to students the success of the American experiment.  I invited the conservative members of the education commission to come to UH and participate. I told them that they should have their voices heard.  They had been in the past quick to denounce what they saw as “politically correct history,” so perhaps they would be willing to make their case.  But they would not do it.  They made excuses, but I did not believe them.  They were, quite simply, afraid to engage in an honest debate.

And that’s the thing that bothers me so much. You do not have to like what you read.  You can dislike a book because you do not like the author’s style, or because it does not interest you. All of that is fine.   But if you are going to dismiss a work of scholarship because it is “politically correct” or because it is “anti-American” or because it manifests too much “America-hating,” then make your case.  Come up with some evidence.  Engage in a dialogue.  Construct and argument. It is not unreasonable to ask those in the public eye to explain their reasoning, to cite the evidence that leads them to believe what they believe.  It is what intellectually mature people do.  I realize that is a sort of behavior is not modeled much these days.  But I have not lost hope. When Lonsberry dismissed The Hemingses of Monticello for its “America hating” I tweeted back at him, asking him to cite one example of the problem he identified, one factually incorrect statement or claim not supported by evidence in that book.  He did not reply, and I realize he might be a busy guy. Still, to dismiss a book because you think it is politically correct and to not provide evidence is, to put it bluntly, chickenshit.  It is an intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt way to suggest that you do not think American children should learn about people of color and that you do not want to hear about the horrors of the past.