CNN analyst John Avlon focused his Friday “Reality Check” segment on refuting the argument to remove statues of former President Abraham Lincoln.
Avlon appeared on CNN’s “New Day” and pointed out that “context matters” as he defended the statues and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass from being equated to some people’s negative views of former Confederate heroes, constituting removal. (RELATED: Cancel Culture Will ‘Come After Bible Characters Next’: Fox Hosts Question Chicago’s Project To ‘Reevaluate’ Monuments)
“It took our country 150 years to start taking down Confederate statues … And it’s part of our belated reckoning with racial justice,” Avlon began. “Looking at our history with more perspective, realizing that maybe statues to people who took up arms against the United States to defend slavery don’t need to be honored in 21st century public spaces. They should be in museums. Context matters a lot, as well. Like learning that many of those statues were built long after the Civil War.”
He went on to say these “civic debates” are “bigger than the latest cancel culture panic on the right” and that those cancel culture “claims” gain “a foothold in people’s minds” when calls to remove statues blur “the distinction between Confederates and Abraham Lincoln.”
He then brought up a bill that was introduced in Congress to remove the Emancipation Memorial, a statue of Abraham Lincoln which shows a slave rising up from a downward position on his knees at Lincoln’s feet. Avlon noted that “you can see why some folks don’t like it.”
“Good people can disagree, but context matters, history matters, and yep, intent matters , especially here. Because this particular statue was built entirely with donations from freed men and women, formerly enslaved, soon after the Civil War,” Avlon continued. “And the offending iconography of a man who’s broken his chains, rising up from his knees with one fist clenched, was based on the masthead of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.”
He pointed out that the statue was dedicated on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s death, with former President Ulysses Grant and Douglass in attendance, with the latter giving the keynote address. He added that “societal standards change,” but that Lincoln and Douglass changed too, and that should make people “reluctant” to disregard “fundamental differences” between Lincoln statues and Confederate statues.
“If this was just a one-off, it wouldn’t be worth focusing on. But Lincoln’s statues, along with those of Douglass and Grant, have been toppled over the past year. And now Chicago has Lincoln statues on a list to review. Instead of focusing on what to tear down, we should be building more monuments to black Americans who deserve a more evaluated place in the story of America’s second founding … That’s a movement we can all rally around,” he concluded.
The city of Chicago began a new monuments project to “reevaluate” and consider the “racial history” of statues and monuments across the city, including Lincoln and Grant. The launch of this public process follows the removal of two Christopher Columbus statues over the summer. Other statues of past presidents made the list, including George Washington and William McKinley.