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February 19, 2024

Should we still honor George Washington, a slaveowner, on President’s Day—or any day?

A wonderful chef just posted about George Washington’s organic farming practices. The comments, to a one, were about his owning slaves. She deleted the post, prompting my below contemplation.

Should we honor a Great Man who did many good things, but was a slaveowner, on President’s Day? Or any day?

 

People are complex, as are their legacies. We can do better than anti-education “anti-Woke” Floridaland. So too, we progressives should not celebrate folks getting this wrong, dancing on their social media graves—rather we should encourage all of us learning, and acknowledging complexities. ~ ed.

George Washington was a slaveowner. It’s important not to gloss over that. It’s true, and important, and should be a part of any confident Nation’s education. Those who would erase our mistakes push us to repeat them.

And, lest we judge others in different times by standards we are blessed with by the sacrifice and activism of past generations, giving us the privilege of education and a society more fair to grow up in…without judging *ourselves* by future just standards…we must not forget that all human beings are complex mixes of prejudice, hate, love, caring, innovation and backward-looking tendencies, to widely differing degrees.

We can and should honor the good in imperfect folks. We can and should admit the failures in good folks.

Still, for his time, in many ways, he is worth honoring. Were we born suddenly in his time, with his privilege, we would likely not be so far ahead of our peers.

Still, to the point, we must—if we honor an imperfect hero who did awful and many good things in all their complexity—still criticize them, justly, for their failures.

For it is in learning, and not forgetting, that we progress in kindness, and do not repeat injustice.

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