From Brother Carl Tate posted as an OP-Ed in the News Virginian July 5th 2015
The past few weeks have brought much debate over the historic meaning of the old Confederate battle flag. Surprisingly, most leaders, left and right, have called for the removal of the flag from public places, even from the Capitol grounds of states such as South Carolina and Alabama. A truly remarkable movement seems to be afoot to finally put the ghosts of the Civil War, which ended some 150 years ago, to rest.
The controversy, initially sparked by tragedy, has led to more soul searching, with many questioning whether statues and monuments to Confederate soldiers and political figures should continue to stand. Richmond’s Monument Avenue, with its row of statues to prominent Confederate Generals and figures for example, and even high schools named after figures such as Robert E. Lee, come to mind.
But my nomination for a figure that deserves a second glance has nothing to do with the Confederacy, though. Mine is a much revered figured from history, especially among liberals and Progressives. One who is particularly beloved in this area. His name is Thomas Woodrow Wilson, yes, little Woody.
As the head of Princeton University, Wilson referred to New York City as “Jew York”, discouraged the admission of black (and other minority) students and was a proponent of the eugenics’ movement. What was eugenics? Glad you asked. To believe in eugenics is to be in the scientific perfectibility of mankind through the mating of superior races. I’ll let you guess which race was considered superior a hundred years ago in America and which set of races was considered inferior. And still little Woody, from Staunton, was considered a leading intellect of his time. Thank God for changing times.
When he finally made it to Washington as our nation’s 28th President, he made it a point of erasing every bit of the government’s strides at racial progress. Some progressive, eh?
Woody re-segregated the federal workforce, separating federal workers by race and instituting a policy that had never been officially in place since black workers were first welcomed into the federal workforce. He rebuffed a delegation of black dignitaries visiting the White House, who were there to protest discriminatory policies in the armed forces, by telling them this: “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”
Yes, he really said that.
Wilson also hosted famed director D.W. Griffin and held a screening of his racist film “Birth of the Nation”, afterward proclaiming it one of the greatest films of all time, a film mind you known for its depiction of the near rape of white women by ape-like black men in the aftermath of the Civil War. And as to the matter of federal anti-lynching legislation, Wilson did absolutely nothing, allowing the lives of hundreds of thousands of black southerners to be put in jeopardy on his watch.
Wilson was a bigot who stood out even for his time. A man whose racism came clothed in the sophistication of intellectualism and high mindedness. A liberal for his time, a white supremacist for the ages.
The real question, though, is whether the cheese and wine set in the Queen City has the courage to speak this truth. Or whether they’re so enamored with Staunton being the birthplace of a president that they’re willing to overlook the obvious racism and bigotry of little Woody? Time will tell. Indeed, time will most certainly tell.