A statue of founding father and writer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson is sparking debate at the University of Missouri, with some students demanding that the statue be removed over Jefferson’s “offensive” history as a slave owner.
Jefferson’s detractors at the university started an online petition demanding the removal of the statue located on the east side of the Francis Quadrangle.
The petition started by Mizzou student Maxwell Little hyperbolically begins, saying, “The need to project a progressive environment is just as important as food and shelter to survive” and goes on to plead for a “welcoming environment,” charging that the statue of Jefferson doesn’t facilitate that end.
The petition also calls the statue of Jefferson an example of a “nonverbal code” that says black students are “unwelcome” at the school.
The detractors also point to the unproven claims that Jefferson fathered a child with his slave Sally Hemmings. Calling it “rape” they also insist that the statue’s “nonverbal code” also tells women that they aren’t welcome at the school.
“Removing Jefferson’s statue alone will not eliminate the racial problems we face in America today,” the petition concludes, “but it will help cure the emotional and psychological strain of history.”
The petition isn’t the only effort aimed at destroying the Jefferson statue. Last week, students launched a social media effort featuring the hashtag #postyourstateofmind and urged students to cover the statue with sticky notes sporting messages such as “rapist,” and “racist.”
The effort doesn’t seem to be attracting a large following, and the president of Mizzou’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter Ian Paris said it was just an example of PCism and called the effort “misplaced anger.”
“To begin, we find it fallacious to require that all historical figures to be judged by contemporary standards,” Paris told The College Fix. “By this we mean that the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves does not discredit him as an advocate for liberty in early America.”
“Any attempt to change that would be a disservice, not only to the memory of one of the greatest men in the history of our nation, but to the University of Missouri as well,” Paris added.
Skyler Roundtree, chairman of the Mizzou College Republicans, also criticized the effort, telling the L.A. Times, “I feel like we’re forgetting important moral and political values that Thomas Jefferson stood for.”
Roundtree also criticized our greater culture, saying that we’ve come to a time where “when someone takes offense at something, then it should be removed.”
“We are living in a time where our society has begun to sacrifice morals and traditions only to be politically correct,” he added.
Still, others are adamant that the statue be removed.
“Every day that is sits on campus, students are affected,” Reuben Faloughi exclaimed. “It’s a symbol of violence to many students. We talk about wanting to fix the culture of sexual violence and racism on campus, but that sits here. What really are the values of the University of Missouri?”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.