San Francisco School Board Dances Atop Lincoln's Grave | Opinion

If a U.S. president can be impeached twice—even with the second trial coming after he leaves office—Abraham Lincoln can be assassinated a second time, with the second attack coming on his reputation. This posthumous attack comes from the woke luminaries heading up the San Francisco Unified School District, which recently decided to rename its schools formerly known as Lincoln (along with Jefferson, Washington, Paul Revere, "Star Spangled Banner" composer Francis Scott Key and others).

School board president Gabriela Lopez went out of her way to assure concerned parents that they were not witnessing what they were in fact witnessing: "I want to ensure people this in no way cancels or erases history," she said. Removing Abraham Lincoln from his place as "the Great Emancipator" does not cancel or erase history? Really?

At the very least, it erases the words of Frederick Douglass. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Douglass stated that "No people or class of people in the country...have a better reason for lamenting the death of Abraham Lincoln, and for desiring to honor and perpetuate his memory, than have the colored people." Lincoln's devotion to equality for all races renders him "in a sense hitherto without example, emphatically the black man's president: the first to show any respect for their rights as men."

Douglass went on to say that, had Lincoln not been cut down by an assassin's bullet, Blacks in the South "would have more than a hope of enfranchisement and no rebels would hold the reins of government in any one of the late rebellious states. Whosoever else have cause to mourn the loss of Abraham Lincoln, to the colored people of the country his death is an unspeakable calamity."

But what of Lincoln's treatment of Native Americans, which the San Francisco school board listed as the former president's greatest offense? Aside from the fact that Lincoln largely continued the Native American policies of his predecessors, critics point to the aftermath of the 1862 Dakota War to impugn the president. Here's what happened: In November 1862, a military commission sentenced more than 300 Santee Sioux in Minnesota to death for the rape and murder of settlers. The Santee also experienced mistreatment and even starvation on reservations at the hands of federal agents.

This was a tragic event on a number of levels. But what was Lincoln's precise role in it? Within a month of the trial, the president reviewed its records and commuted more than 260 of the 300 sentences.

Lincoln high school San Francisco
A sign is posted outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. A San Francisco school names advisory committee is recommending to remove Abraham Lincoln’s name from San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High School for the 16th President's past treatment of Native Americans. The committee is recommending the renaming of 44 schools named after historical figures that they find inappropriate. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

That's it. That's the basis for the charge that Lincoln was "anti-Native American."

Sound convincing to you? Me neither. But it was apparently enough for the San Francisco School Board.

However, it was also "enough" for San Francisco mayor London Breed, who blasted the proposal to rename schools, given that, as Breed stated, "We should be talking about getting [students] in classrooms, getting them mental health support and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time."

At the same time, the basis for Mayor Breed's disapproval appears to be not the renaming per se, but its timing. "I understand the significance of the name of a school, and a school's name should instill a feeling of pride in every student that walks through its doors, regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation," said the mayor.

San Francisco schools have until next month to suggest still more names to erase. In the meantime, we might want to reflect on what this country will look like once all the "bad" names, statues, paintings and whatever else have been purged to make history as clean as a whistle—and as factually clear as mud.

We might also want to reflect on the following question: Has there ever been a country where taxpayers were compelled to subsidize schools teaching their kids to hate their own country?

Thomas K. Lindsay, Ph.D. is the Distinguished Senior Fellow of Higher Education and Constitutional Studies at Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.