“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
– Abraham Lincoln during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.
In “Avalanche”, Prince sings “Abraham Lincoln was a racist”.
These were hard words for me to hear. Growing up in the midst of outright bigotry and systematic oppression, I needed to see white heroes on the right side of history doing the right thing. I needed to believe in that as an example to look up to and to point to. It was personal too. I grew up on a farm in Kentucky that was a mere 8 minute drive from the memorial that marks the spot near a sinking spring where Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. I was raised admiring this pivotal figure who, for me, was a beacon of possibility. He was a self-made man from modest means, who sought education as his way out and achieved the highest office of the land. He led a divided nation through civil war and stood on the right side of history. Being from there, we were taught that and celebrated that, literally. Yet, he was also a complicated man to which many will excuse as a product of his times or dismiss as a gifted politician who knew what to say to a crowd in order to leverage their vote. I think about Obama and how he waited until his second term to say publicly that I have the right to marry and that the Supreme Court should support that. He did not campaign on it, but instead he waited until he was past the hurdle of re-election in order to say that. In other words, it did not cost him any political capital. He evolved, he said. Or, you might say he was a gifted politician who knew that there is a time for expediency. All of this is up for debate. But when it comes to Lincoln, he used white supremacy as a political tool in his favor to support himself as a candidate for a position of power. This is white privilege whether he truly believed it and then later evolved, or whether he wielded it on a populace that was simply not ready for enlightenment. Or, he simply did not believe in slavery but still held that his race was superior. Whichever narrative or combination thereof is the truth, they are all still examples of white supremacy. It’s always a reckoning when we realize our heroes are imperfect. It means that we can and must also reflect on our own imperfections. Sometimes the uncomfortable conversation is with the self. It’s easier to see what you want. Like Prince sings, “nobody wants to take the weight, the responsibility”. It’s eyes wide open time.
Quarantine Daily Dance #95 – Friday June 19, 2020
1. Juneteenth Dance
2. Music: “Avalanche” by Prince
3. A white man dances in the shadow of Lincoln.
4. A Confrontation Dance.
5. Use the Lincoln statue gifted from my hometown and Lincoln’s birthplace: Hodgenville, KY.
Enter your prompt and music suggestions in the comments. Make More Art.
#Quarantine #Pandemic #Isolation
#Prince #Avalanche #RainbowChildren #AbrahamLincoln #Hodgenville #Juneteenth