COLUMN from PETER FEINMAN
Editor’s Note: FYI, William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown (and The Freeman’s Journal), also owned slaves.
‘Reconsidering the Past, One Statue at a Time,” was the front-page above-the-fold headline in The New York Times on June 17. The article begins by noting the “boiling anger” that exploded after the murder of George Floyd.
It has gone national.
In religious terms, we are witnessing the attempt to purify America by cleansing it of all vestiges of its racist past.Back on July 19, 2019, Maureen Dowd, Times op-ed columnist, wrote a piece entitled “Spare Me the Purity Racket,” in part:“The progressives are the modern Puritans. The Massachusetts
Bay Colony is alive and well on the Potomac and Twitter. They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough while placing all their hopes in a color-inside-the-lines lifelong Republican prosecutor appointed by Ronald Reagan. The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.”
She was writing about the Mueller Report and had no idea about the world we are now living or what John Bolton would reveal. Still now as the purification of America is underway, it is worth considering what the end game is. How far will the cleansing go? Exactly what is at stake here?
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has announced that the city will be taking down the statue of Philip Schuyler because he was a slave owner.
Dr. Alice Green, executive director at the Center for Law and Justice, said: “He enslaved them, he devalued them, and the lesson for young people is that: Why are we glorifying people who treated us that way?”
An objection was raised by former state legislator and city historian Jack McEneny: “Philip Schuyler is one of the people who … if we didn’t have him, we would’ve lost the Battle of Saratoga.”
In response, Dr. Alice Green, said: “I don’t believe in censorship. I do believe if somebody wants to glorify Philip Schuyler … They should, but not on my government property.”
There are other examples glorifying Philip Schuyler.
One is the nearby Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site located on state government property and operated by the state Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation.
Another is the Schuyler House, Philip Schuyler’s country house near the Saratoga battlefield and owned and operated by the National Park Service on federal government property. What is the basis for removing the statue but keeping state and federal ownership of his houses?
Why should taxpayer money be used to support the homes of a slave owner? Shouldn’t these houses be privatized as Green suggested? One thing always leads to another. That’s the way the purification process works.
What about Schuylerville, the village where the Schuyler House is located? Shouldn’t its name be changed?
A bigger problem is Schuyler’s daughters. They appear in the musical “Hamilton”, as one of them married Alexander Hamilton.
The daughters were all beneficiaries of white privilege. What are they doing on Broadway in positive roles? Shouldn’t they be removed from the musical?
If seeing a statue is traumatic, what does that make seeing living examples of these daughters of white privilege singing and dancing before an appreciative audience? What does that make the people who pay to see them?
“Who tells your story?” the musical famously asks. The real story is one of slavery and not that of Hamilton’s immigration. That’s the way the purification process works.
Peter Feinman, who advocates for local history to be taught in New York State schools, is president of the Institute of History, Archaeology & Education.