Make Them Own It: Part 2

 

Make them own it” was a call to hold the Democratic Party and the left fully accountable for its past and present misdeeds. Continuing to honor Woodrow Wilson, through the Woodrow Wilson Center and places named for him, has become incongruous with claims of justice and righting past wrongs. Indeed, controversy over Wilson’s name on a school in the District of Columbia raises an additional issue of past injustice and present claims for social justice.

Celebrated to this day as a founder of modern progressive government, Woodrow Wilson created the environment within which the Klu Klux Klan reemerged with a vengeance.

After seeing the film, an enthusiastic Wilson reportedly remarked: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” African-American audiences openly wept at the film’s malicious portrayal of blacks, while Northern white audiences cheered. The film swept the nation. Riots broke out in major cities (Boston and Philadelphia, among others), and it was denied release in many other places (Chicago, Ohio, Denver, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Minneapolis). Gangs of whites roamed city streets attacking blacks. In Lafayette, Indiana, a white man killed a black teenager after seeing the movie. Thomas Dixon reveled in its triumph. “The real purpose of my film,” he confessed gleefully, “was to revolutionize Northern audiences that would transform every man into a Southern partisan for life.”

As the NAACP fought against the film and tried unsuccessfully to get it banned, the Ku Klux Klan successfully used it to launch a massive recruiting campaign that would bring in millions of members. Griffith later regretted the racial prejudice that his film promoted. He tried to make amends by making INTOLERANCE, a film attacking race prejudice. But INTOLERANCE never approached the success of THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

Yet, the Woodrow Wilson Center still proudly bears his name. It plays host to national and international leaders, who should be troubled by association with President Wilson’s legacy. Notably, on the 50th anniversary of the Woodrow Wilson Center, they conducted an afternoon forum entitled “Wilson’s Legacy Reconsidered.” 

In that setting, they invited one African-American to speak in the entire program. He spoke on the domestic policy panel. Devin Fergus, a former Wilson Center Fellow and professor of history, got enough of the facts out to then bury them in lots of context. There was no expression righteous wrath against what is now a reliably leftist domestic and foreign policy forum at the center of national political power.

“When the [Wilson] administration goes about segregating federal employees, federal offices, they said one of the main reasons is, ‘We don’t want black supervisors over white clerks.’ So there is a great anxiety, particularly in this window of time when you have economic concentration and a sense of class precarity, you have to address that in many ways by rolling back the access of other populations… By targeting and addressing public employment of African Americans, you’re targeting and addressing their primary vehicle for upward mobility.”
 
“It’s not simply what happens during the Wilson administration, but what also happens at the state level, what also happens in subsequent administrations, whether it’s Harding, whether it’s Coolidge. Coolidge sees that you don’t have to address African Americans, so what does he do? He takes a silent role on the Dyer Bill [on] anti-lynching because he sees that you don’t have to appeal to or address this population.”

Towards the end of the audience question period, a man asked about Woodrow Wilson High School. It was beginning to become the center of conversation about both Wilson’s actions and about consequences of those actions and inactions in office. This public school has been a crown jewel of the city for decades. The neighborhood is apparently now made up of rich white liberals and leftists.
 
There are arguments for and against renaming the school, and Trygve Throntveit, a white liberal scholar who has made much of his career on Wilson, made them in 2015: “Erasing Woodrow Wilson, Evading History?” He was not asked to offer the same nuanced (while carefully avoiding the whole Birth of a Nation episode) discussion on the world order panel of the Wilson Center 50th Anniversary program. Then, a Washington Post story on 10 March 2019 inadvertently raised quite another issue in our current racial politics [emphasis added]:

[T}here’s talk of erasing the name of the nation’s 28th president from the school — talk forcing the wealthy, largely white neighborhood around the school to confront its own history.

Wilson, a Southern Democrat and two-term president who moved to the White House in 1913, was a staunch supporter of segregation, setting back African Americans in their quest for civil rights.

So far we are clearly dealing with just the symbolic act of renaming a school. But then the story takes another turn.

When Wilson took office, the District had a large black population and the federal government provided these residents well-paying jobs and careers. But Wilson impeded the progress of the District’s black population by further segregating the federal workforce and making it harder for black residents to land public-service jobs.
Wilson’s policies contributed to the decimation of vibrant African American neighborhoods in Northwest Washington, according to Alcione Amos, curator at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.
[…]
But starting in the 1920s, the federal government began using eminent domain to acquire much of this prime real estate from residents, Amos said. At the time, D.C. did not have local governance, so the federal government controlled real estate.
[…]
This process continued for decades until the black communities were gone. Wilson, which opened in 1935 as an all-white school, was built on land adjacent to these neighborhoods. Lafayette and Alice Deal, which feed into Wilson High, also opened as all-white schools.

Woodrow Wilson created the ideal environment to destroy African American communities,” Amos said.

Think that through. Here we have a clearly defined, compact, geographic area in which federal policy was exercised to destroy, to ethnically cleanse, a black community. Surely it is only proper to now exercise that same federal power on this same defined area of the District of Columbia to make things right. Housing is incredibly expensive. Well-made, affordable housing is needed.

Black Lives Matter clearly demands reparations. Now serious contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are speaking out in favor of reparations: 

Two leading Democratic presidential candidates — U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have reportedly said they support reparations for black Americans affected by slavery, reflecting a shift in the importance of race and identity issues within the party.

Make. Them. Own. It.

My point is that the Wilson High situation lets us turn the left’s rhetoric on itself. Responding that you and I don’t owe X diverts the focus back where the left wants, so resist that urge and consider the greater effectiveness of making them own it. If the left believes its own talk, it is time to pay up, and here is the perfect case. Exercise eminent domain *again* and turn the parlor pink leftists’ fancy digs into affordable housing units.

Maybe we could even take a page from Mao—send the displaced apparatchiks and nomenklatura to offices in a farm state.

There are 20 comments.

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  1. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Clifford A. Brown: Maybe we could even take a page from Mao—send the displaced apparatchiks and nomenklatura to offices in a farm state.

    There is already a move to send around 600 USDA economists and scientists to a new location outside DC. 

    As an exercise in swamp draining, it’s a start. 

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Detroit is discussing removing Ben Carson’s name from a local high school. They admit it’s political, due his working with Donald Trump. Oh, that makes sense: let’s find a reason for turning on an incredibly successful surgeon who beat the odds of growing up here. I haven’t been able to determine if his name has been removed yet, but in November 2018, it seemed likely. It’s a sick world.

    • #2
  3. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Since the Intersectionality types already have started targeting FDR for his alleged sins, I really don’t think the AOC crowd would have much problem tossing Woodrow Wilson under the bus — they’d throw JFK there if they thought it could help them gain power within the party via victimization and copious uses of the race and gender cards.

    Remember, the goal is to paint all of America’s past history as being a horror show of racism and misogyny, to where the far left in 2019 really doesn’t distinguish which party a president in 1919 belonged to, even if other Democrats are a little more hesitant to throw all their past heroes under the bus.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: Maybe we could even take a page from Mao—send the displaced apparatchiks and nomenklatura to offices in a farm state.

    There is already a move to send around 600 USDA economists and scientists to a new location outside DC.

    As an exercise in swamp draining, it’s a start.

    Ideally, they would all be dispersed into Quonsett huts around the country, but as you say, this is a good start.  

    • #4
  5. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I’m happy to help tear down all the Democratic presidents.

    • #5
  6. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    There are already schools named after Obama  (I think some were so named while he was still in office), which I find to be an absolute travesty and it makes me sick.

    • #6
  7. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    My early education about Wilson was pretty skimpy, but basically, he was a “good president”.  I don’t think the racial aspects were touched on at all.

    It is only fairly recently that I have learned of the damage he did to the Constitution.  I need to learn more, but it must have been a very “progressive” time.  During his administration, the 17th Amendment was passed allowing for direct election of Senators and thus destroying the original intent of the role of individual states.  Income tax also started in that period.

    Basically, he felt that the Constitution was a hindrance to the government by experts that he preferred.  A good article is:

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/may/30/woodrow-wilsons-case-against-the-constitution/

    One of the quotes from that article is:

    Wilson is perhaps best known for expressing his intent in his April 1917 war message to make the world “safe for democracy.” Much less known is the key role Wilson earlier played — as a professor of political science and president of Princeton University — in the Progressive Era to “make the United States safe for the modern administrative state.”  (emphasis mine)

    I’m afraid he succeeded.  

    • #7
  8. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    My early education about Wilson was pretty skimpy, but basically, he was a “good president”. I don’t think the racial aspects were touched on at all.

    It is only fairly recently that I have learned of the damage he did to the Constitution. I need to learn more, but it must have been a very “progressive” time. During his administration, the 17th Amendment was passed allowing for direct election of Senators and thus destroying the original intent of the role of individual states. Income tax also started in that period.

    Basically, he felt that the Constitution was a hindrance to the government by experts that he preferred. A good article is:

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/may/30/woodrow-wilsons-case-against-the-constitution/

    One of the quotes from that article is:

    Wilson is perhaps best known for expressing his intent in his April 1917 war message to make the world “safe for democracy.” Much less known is the key role Wilson earlier played — as a professor of political science and president of Princeton University — in the Progressive Era to “make the United States safe for the modern administrative state.” (emphasis mine)

    I’m afraid he succeeded.

    Highly recommended:

    Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism

    • #8
  9. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    philo (View Comment):

    Highly recommended:

    Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism

    Thank you very much.  I meant to put a request in my comment for any materials with further information about Wilson and that era.  This looks very good.

    • #9
  10. JimmyV87 Coolidge
    JimmyV87
    @JimmyV

    I think the progressives support for eugenics a century ago is something we should exploit….it’s amazing how similar (in some ways) the progressives of that era were to the ones today. Their elitism, the way they talk about “science”, their desire to force “progress” onto people, the way they see people as sheep to be controlled by them. Their admiration for Stalin’s Soviet Union (they were unaware of everything going on there, but loved the idea of central planning, and sounds similar to today’s progressives talking about Xi’s China)…Eugenics fit squarely into the progressives worldview in those days 

    “Illiberal reformers” is a great book that discusses them in depth

    https://www.amazon.com/Illiberal-Reformers-Eugenics-Economics-Progressive/dp/0691175861

    Regarding Woodrow Wilson – he has been a recent target of the modern day progressives…at Princeton they tried to rename a building/dept originally named after him, and at Davidson college (Wilson’s alma mater, right down the road from me) they tried to erase all references to him. 

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    JimmyV87 (View Comment):

    I think the progressives support for eugenics a century ago is something we should exploit….it’s amazing how similar (in some ways) the progressives of that era were to the ones today. Their elitism, the way they talk about “science”, their desire to force “progress” onto people, the way they see people as sheep to be controlled by them. Their admiration for Stalin’s Soviet Union (they were unaware of everything going on there, but loved the idea of central planning, and sounds similar to today’s progressives talking about Xi’s China)…Eugenics fit squarely into the progressives worldview in those days

    “Illiberal reformers” is a great book that discusses them in depth

    https://www.amazon.com/Illiberal-Reformers-Eugenics-Economics-Progressive/dp/0691175861

    Regarding Woodrow Wilson – he has been a recent target of the modern day progressives…at Princeton they tried to rename a building/dept originally named after him, and at Davidson college (Wilson’s alma mater, right down the road from me) they tried to erase all references to him.

    Thx. Kindled it. 

    • #11
  12. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I remember “Liberal Fascism” having a fair bit about the Wilson administration.

    • #12
  13. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Anyone interested in the history of the neighborhoods bordering Wilson High School can find some here:

    http://www.tenleytownhistoricalsociety.org/neighborhoods/reno-city.php

    • #13
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

     

    Unlike much of the past couple decades, Woodrow Wilson’s seminal article, “The Study of Administration” is readable, and worth reading. On the cusp of the 20th Century, Wilson argues that public administration had become too complex for mere clerks who respond to direction from elected or appointed officials. He professed support for the electoral system, but insisted that people expected competence that can only be met by a strictly professional bureaucracy insulated from politics.

    • #14
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Anyone interested in the history of the neighborhoods bordering Wilson High School can find some here:

    http://www.tenleytownhistoricalsociety.org/neighborhoods/reno-city.php

    Good find.

    • #15
  16. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment): Unlike much of the past couple decades, Woodrow Wilson’s seminal article, “The Study of Administration” is readable, and worth reading. On the cusp of the 20th Century, Wilson argues that public administration had become too complex for mere clerks who respond to direction from elected or appointed officials. He professed support for the electoral system, but insisted that people expected competence that can only be met by a strictly professional bureaucracy insulated from politics.

    His perception of those in that “professional bureaucracy” from the link I used above:

    Perhaps most important, a civil service appointment, with its secure tenure and independence from politics, would allow a bureaucrat to disregard special interests and act on behalf of the general interest. … – Page 229

    Yes, because that is exactly how it works.  Of course, some of the “so called” buffoons around here may still fall for the progressive faux-intellectual nonsense but so much of the last decade should clearly instruct otherwise.  Anyway, back to the Bulwark advertisement on the other side of the neighborhood…

    (I have pages and pages of notes from this source…more later if appropriate.)

    • #16
  17. Vectorman Member
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    philo (View Comment):

    His perception of those in that “professional bureaucracy” from the link I used above:

    Perhaps most important, a civil service appointment, with its secure tenure and independence from politics, would allow a bureaucrat to disregard special interests and act on behalf of the general interest. … – Page 229

    If a civil service government worker could read a law passed by Congress and signed by a President, then a secure tenure independent from politics would be appropriate. Unfortunately, modern laws that state “the Secretary Shall …” along with Administrative Law allow the government workers to dictate their whims to the people. And with over 80% of the workers belonging to one party / ideology make them the tyrants over the people.

    • #17
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    philo (View Comment):

    His perception of those in that “professional bureaucracy” from the link I used above:

    Perhaps most important, a civil service appointment, with its secure tenure and independence from politics, would allow a bureaucrat to disregard special interests and act on behalf of the general interest. … – Page 229

    If a civil service government worker could read a law passed by Congress and signed by a President, then a secure tenure independent from politics would be appropriate. Unfortunately, modern laws that state “the Secretary Shall …” along with Administrative Law allow the government workers to dictate their whims to the people. And with over 80% of the workers belonging to one party / ideology make them the tyrants over the people.

    This is certainly one of a number of objections. Start with basic organizational theory and universal concerns about goal displacement in bureaucracy over time. Consider the risks that follow if it is true that bureaucracy is driven to perpetuate itself. Of course, all such concerns emerged as the study and the objects being studied developed in the 20th Century.

    • #18
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    “It’s not simply what happens during the Wilson administration, but what also happens at the state level, what also happens in subsequent administrations, whether it’s Harding, whether it’s Coolidge. Coolidge sees that you don’t have to address African Americans, so what does he do? He takes a silent role on the Dyer Bill [on] anti-lynching because he sees that you don’t have to appeal to or address this population.”

    So a sin of commission is somehow just as bad as doing the right thing but without enough fanfare. 

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

     

    Unlike much of the past couple decades, Woodrow Wilson’s seminal article, “The Study of Administration” is readable, and worth reading. On the cusp of the 20th Century, Wilson argues that public administration had become too complex for mere clerks who respond to direction from elected or appointed officials. He professed support for the electoral system, but insisted that people expected competence that can only be met by a strictly professional bureaucracy insulated from politics.

    Several months ago I started reading it, but got creeped out.   Interesting how he thinks that politics can be insulated from politics.   

    • #20

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