Canceling History: Tearing Down Thomas Jefferson Statues is Reductive Nonsense

Born around 1845, Quanah Parker became one of, if not the most feared and respected Comanche in the latter half of the 19th century. He’s certainly the best-known Comanche. Any book written about Comancheria, Quanah Parker would be prominently mentioned.  He was respected by Comanche and feared by Texans.

Parker left a decade-long bloody trail through North Texas before surrendering to authorities in 1875. He was a smart man and knew that his days on the plains were over.  He also knew that any admission to murdering white settlers would land him on a scaffold with a rope around his neck, so he kept his secrets; but there is little doubt that during his time on the Texas plains, he participated in murder raids where settlers were brutally tortured and murdered. During those raids, people who didn’t end up dead were taken captive and enslaved. One of those enslaved was his mother Cynthia Ann Parker. Cynthia was taken captive at the age of 9. Although slavery was widely practiced by Native tribes including the Comanche and was a common practice of native tribes throughout the continent, it’s generally ignored by historians. Quanah Parker likely owned humans. And he undoubtedly murdered and tortured people and was himself the son of an enslaved white. Yet, he is revered.

Quanah Parker is honored by Texas generally and the Texas Historical Society specifically. His likeness is preserved in bronze statues that grace landmarks and parks throughout the state. Parker was a man of his time and, slavery was part of his culture. After his surrender, Quanah Parker was also a vocal advocate for his fellow Native Americans. After settling in Oklahoma, he labored tirelessly for Native land ownership and use. He helped preserve native culture and native religion. He became friends with whites, including Teddy Roosevelt. He was in summary far more than the ugly parts of his past. He deserves to be remembered.

Recently the New York City Council voted to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson that graced the council chambers for over 100 years.  Jefferson, they complained, was a slave owner and they just couldn’t bear to look at his likeness. It’s reductive nonsense.

If we reduce everyone to his or her lowest common denominator everyone is erased from memory. That’s the game the left is playing. The author of the Declaration of Independence is reduced to his ugliest practice and defined, not for his greatest moments, but by his lowest. It’s an awful and dangerous precedent that no human, living or dead could survive. If removing statues because of that person’s lowest trait is the benchmark, Quanah Parker is reduced to a slave-owning murderer. He’s a son of a slave, who sold out to the white man. Martin Luther King is reduced to a philandering socialist. It has to stop. It needs to stop.

Founders are having their statues torn down or removed because they were born 300 years ago into a system they didn’t invent. While statues of truly great men and women are being pulled down, others are being erected. George Floyd comes to mind. This game is only played in one direction.