That Barack Obama. He’s at it again, dividing the country, fostering racial strife.
What is it this time, you ask? Why, only the most sacred of things, our best beloved, our central obsession — money.
The double sawbuck, to be precise, the one currently sporting Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. Obama’s Treasury Secretary is sending him to the back of the $20 bill, while ex-slave Harriet Tubman gets to go on the front.
Planet Fox (that lightless but loud satellite orbiting the vast Murdoch Spatial Anomaly) is puffing and squawking. Greta Van Susteren used her April 21 “Off the Record” segment (which, since it’s broadcast to a lot of people, is actually ON the record) to get emphatic, if not coherent, about keeping Old Hickory right where God intended: “We could put a woman on a bill! Tubman — acknowledge her courage, and not stir up the country. But give Tubman her own bill! Like a $25 bill! We could use a $25 bill! Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate!”
The Brain Trust that is “Fox and Friends” also came out strong for leaving Andrew Jackson alone. He’s an American hero. Brian Kilmeade called him “one of the best generals we ever had.”
Kilmeade might want to ask the Cherokee, the Creeks, the Choctaw and the Seminoles about that.
Co-host Heather Nauer fussed that Alexander Hamilton got to remain on the $10 bill just because he’s the subject of a hit Broadway musical: “If that is the standard, next thing you know, folks, we’re going to have cats on money!”
Ben Carson (how soon we forget!) and Donald Trump (how we wish we could forget!) decided that Harriet Tubman deserved maybe the $2 bill. Trump allowed as how Tubman was “fantastic,” but dismissed the Jackson-Tubman switch as “political correctness,” adding that Jackson had “been on the bill for many, many years and really represented — somebody that was really very important to this country.”
A cynical person might wonder if Herr Drumpf had actually ever heard of Harriet Tubman. Or Andrew Jackson.
For Herr Drumpf’s information, Jackson wasn’t merely a plantation master, a pro-slavery Southerner. He was a government terrorist.
In 1816, he orchestrated the destruction of what was called the “Negro Fort” in Spanish Florida. More than 300 Choctaw, Seminole and African Americans were killed, many of them women and children.
Hundreds more refugees who lived around the Apalachicola River settlement were rounded up and sent back into slavery in Georgia and the Carolinas.
He violated international borders raiding Seminole villages in Spanish Florida, burning and murdering. The Seminoles harbored runaway slaves.
As president in 1830, he pushed the Indian Removal Act, setting in motion the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of native people from their lands east of the Mississippi so that white people could establish plantations worked by black people.
I guess you could say that was “really very important to this country.” You could also say it was genocide: 10,000 died of typhus, cholera, dysentery and starvation before they ever made it to “Indian Territory.”
Compare Jackson’s career with that of Araminta Ross (she later called herself “Harriet,” and “Tubman” was her husband’s last name), born a slave on a Maryland plantation c. 1822, escaped to freedom in Pennsylvania in 1849.
The white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison nicknamed her “Moses.” During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman spied for the Union, and in the decades after (she died in 1913), advocated for women having the right to vote.
Yes, Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States. But a number of dodgy people have held that office: Millard Fillmore. Richard Nixon. George W. Bush. Doesn’t mean we have to celebrate them.
No, history is not being buried: Jackson’s simply getting parked in a less prominent place on the money. He’s still there, so all you white men who feel threatened by the elevation of a bad-ass brave little black woman who believed that the words of the Declaration of Independence — the part about everyone being created equal — should govern America, need to get over it.
It’s not “political correctness.” It’s not pandering. It’s righting an old wrong.
Come join America, white guys. You might learn something.
Diane Roberts is the author of Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She teaches at Florida State University. Column courtesy of Context Florida.