Modern Liberalism's False Obsession with Civil War Monuments
Black accomplishments in the ’40s and ’50s prove that today’s setbacks are not due to slavery.
Visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and between exhibits of dinosaur skeletons, Asian elephants and Alaskan moose you might notice a bust of Henry Fairfield Osborn and a plaque honoring Madison Grant. Osborn and Grant were two of the country’s leading conservationists in the early 1900s. They also were dedicated white supremacists.
Osborn, a former president of the museum, founded the Eugenics Education Society—now known as the Galton Institute—which sought the improvement of humanity through selective breeding. Grant, a co-founder of the Bronx Zoo, is known today for his influential 1916 best seller, “The Passing of the Great Race,” a pseudoscientific polemic arguing that nonwhite immigrants—which included Eastern and Southern Europeans by his definition—were tainting America’s superior Nordic stock. Osborn, who was a zoologist by training, wrote the introduction to Grant’s book, which Hitler called “my Bible.” The New Yorker magazine once described Grant as someone who “extended a passion for preserving bison and caribou into a mania for preserving the ‘Nordic race.’ ”
Given their options, why are liberals so focused on monuments to Civil War figures? Politically, it makes some tactical sense. The GOP has spent decades warding off claims of racism, and forcing Republican politicians to defend prominent displays of Confederate statuary keeps them on the defensive. On another level, however, liberals make a fetish of Civil War monuments because it feeds their hallowed slavery narrative, which posits that racial inequality today is mainly a legacy of the country’s slave past.
Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.
This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal