Letter to The Editor : July 2021
Claudia Tenney got it wrong in voting to keep confederate statues in the Capitol.
The honor of having your likeness displayed in the U.S. Capitol should be reserved for the truly deserving. We may have different ideas about who deserves to be so honored and how they could earn it, but I’d like to take a moment to say why Chief Justice Roger Taney is not such a person.
Taney delivered one of the most disturbing if not disgusting legal decisions in American history. His judgment against Dred Scott declared that Black people were “a separate class of persons … not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed.” Taney explained that the Declaration of Independence was meant to exclude enslaved people.
It’s ahistorical to put ourselves in the shoes of the leader of the Supreme Court in 1857, but it’s worth considering how a person could have the power to set a man and his family free from slavery and decide not to.
Change is hard, but history should be more than just an entertaining story. History should strive to be truthful and to do that you need ethical standards. Taney doesn’t deserve extra honors. To pretend that he is an honorable man is an attack on telling a full, truthful version of history. His bust in the Capitol is such an attack.
We need to be able to speak freely about history. Glorifying Taney with a bust in the Capitol presents a strange and fanciful version of history that wants to pretend enslaved people didn’t exist. People should be free to get the whole picture.
New Hartford, NY