Last summer, the Board of Visitors’ Racial Equity Task Force released its “Audacious Future” report, highlighting new initiatives that the school plans to adopt and implement in the near future. One of the proposed plans is to “contextualize” the Thomas Jefferson statue that currently stands in front of the Rotunda, the iconic focal point of UVA Grounds. Although it is unclear how this will be manifested (e.g., a plaque on the pedestal or a separate monument, etc.), the goal is to put the founding father’s “contradictory writings and actions” into perspective and “reframe the historic landscape to tell a broader story.” Completing this will supposedly be “crucial to improving the racial climate.”
But while the left side of the political spectrum and its ‘wokeademic’ minions are busy denouncing political figures that lived 200 years ago, they are nowhere to be found when it comes to holding their current leaders accountable for their actions— especially those of current Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden.
Having been a member of Washington DC’s political class for the last half century, Uncle Joe is no stranger to understanding the boundaries of political etiquette and being mindful of social dos and don’ts. Nevertheless, Joe and his bountiful Freudian slips have repeatedly been on the wrong side of most issues. Even worse, his flip-flopping over the years has made it abundantly clear that his spine is as unwaveringly sturdy as a foam pool noodle. And his race record? Not so good.
In the 1970s, then-Senator Biden staunchly opposed state-mandated busing to end racial segregation of public schools, openly arguing that if it happened, his children would “grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle.” Poor Hunter deserved better. So as a Congressman, he did everything he could to block federal efforts to do so. He even managed to rally his Democrat colleagues to do the same, and his fierce efforts shifted Democrat sentiment toward opposing civil rights— but what’s new?
Throughout his long and not-entirely-memorable political career, Joe Biden voted to abolish federal parole and reinstate the death penalty. After George H.W. Bush’s address on the War on Drugs, Biden responded with a speech saying that the president’s plan did not do enough to “catch the violent thugs… or [build] enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.” But the award for “Most Infamous Example of Joe Biden’s Foul Race Record” has to go to his Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, more commonly known as the “1994 Crime Bill.” This bill served as a stimulant for mass incarceration—specifically of African American men—through the funding of new prisons, the halting of prison education programs, and policies that increased the length of sentences (especially for nonviolent drug offenders) and extended the list of crimes that could result in the death penalty. The Democrat senator contended that the bill would help prevent people who “literally have not been socialized” from committing crimes. To be fair, credit should be given where it is due: At least he was urging Americans to help these unsocialized kids before they could potentially “become the predators 15 years from now.” Was he hinting at a certain demographic? It is not certain, but if you believe that the American justice system is broken, just know that 46 didn’t quite help make it better.
One could go on for days or even weeks about Joe Biden’s political record and (racist?) statements. Heck, we didn’t even get to his treatment of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, his statements in 2010 about his “friend” and “mentor” KKK recruiter Robert Byrd, his 2020 interview blunder with Charlamagne tha God when he said, “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” or even, as recent as last week, his comparison of voter ID requirements in Georgia to Jim Crow. Maybe, though, society has acknowledged his flaws, forgiven him, and moved on. Maybe society today values forgiveness— that people are capable of redeeming themselves and changing for the better. Maybe America is capable of improving itself, even with its contradictory history. But no. Unfortunately, that is not at all what society values. It only values rewriting, rearranging, and even erasing history. It pretends that everything bad that Joe Biden ever said never actually happened, because we have been told that Joe Biden is the most progressive president in history—that he is reshaping America—and therefore he shall not be called out for his past. There is no need to contextualize him. And on the contrary, the people who wrote the Constitution have been deemed forever irredeemable. Our figures shall only be praised or cancelled. It is not possible to accept that Joe Biden has had achievements and flaws. The same goes for Jefferson— only he shall be cancelled, not praised.
Well, here’s a little message to the delusional admirers and the relentless cancellers: Joe Biden is far from perfect. Thomas Jefferson was far from perfect. And you sure aren’t perfect either. In fact, you’re far from it— even further from it than TJ (but maybe not Joe). No one today is only praising Jefferson, because no one who appreciates his valuable contributions to education and society here at UVA is also denying that his views and actions on race were flawed and despicable. Certainly, no one is arguing that the United States is flawless either. But are we no longer allowed to celebrate, or even acknowledge, our country’s accomplishments? Are we, as students at the University of Virginia in the 21st century, only allowed to hate UVA because of actions it took in the 19th century— actions, mind you, that are totally out of our control? Must we conflate UVA in 2021 with UVA in 1819? Is a “contextualized” statue actually going to change anything? Lastly, why won’t we extend the same grace to Thomas Jefferson that we extend to Joe Biden? If it is the case that we must remember our founders only for their mistakes, shouldn’t we then only remember Biden for his?
If we’re only allowed to pick between praising and canceling, here’s what I think we should do with Joe Biden now that we’ve taken a closer look at his record: We technically could contextualize him, but that might not do him justice. We could cancel him. But given the strict standards society has created for our public figures, I think we’re only left with one option: Erase him, erase him now!
Excellent article, Will. You are stating facts and what should be intuitively obvious. Unfortunately today, facts are far too often subjugated to feelings or what the MSM believe are their self-perceived “universally accepted principles of morality.”
Lives and morality are nuanced. However, to use a phrase that predated Mr. Jefferson, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Contextualize Thomas Jefferson, who on the worst day of his life accomplished more for America than Joe Biden did in half a century, then logic and fairness mandate you also must contextualize President Biden.
Won’t happen, of course, but your theory is spot on. Keep up the good work, and congratulations on the launch of a sane, civil alternative to the Cavalier Daily. The CD now bears zero resemblance to the balanced newspaper that existed when I was on Grounds as a student.
Great article but maybe it would take pages to point out all the flaws of the 47 year public servant feeding at the public trough.
And we could write more than several pages on all his children escapades and the trough for his brother.
You nailed it, John Doe.
If only there were a word for the fact that, as you say, “no one today is only praising Jefferson.” Oh, yes, there is! Contextualization is that word! So try again and tell us why you’re REALLY upset about the Board of Visitors’ decision, this time honestly.