A statue of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester's Maplewood Park was vandalized on the anniversary of the "What to a slave is the Fourth of July?" speech that he gave in Rochester in 1852.
Given the current cultural conversation that the United States is having around statues and memorials that commemorate people who did terrible things alongside their other accomplishments, this unfortunate act is being held up as some kind of monolithic indicator of the eeeeeeevils of "cancel culture" and whiny liberals who want to get rid of statues. Consider these tweets from Yascha Mounk, a contributing editor for The Atlantic and Senior Advisor for Protect Democracy:
"Removed" is quite the euphemism here, by the way. As best I can tell from this terrible news report, it has been smashed to pieces. https://t.co/qMgUwazdRl
— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) July 6, 2020
As of this writing, it's not clear who destroyed this statue — one of fourteen Douglass statues in Rochester, where Douglass lived and was buried. In 2018, two drunk college kids also destroyed a Frederick Douglass statue in the city. Eyewitnesses claimed the students were shouting racial slurs, but the vandals themselves insist they were just drunk and did it for the lulz. They pled guilty, and had to participate in a restorative justice program to learn more about Douglass and his contributions to the world.
In other words, even that situation wasn't an indicator of anything other than the seeping subtleties that empower entitled white dudes to do dumb shit and get away with it.
Whatever happened to the Frederick Douglass statue in Maplewood Park, it was also very unlikely that was an indicator of "cancel culture run amok." But there are those who are afraid of any change to the status quo to which they've grown accustomed, and they don't want to hear that. Everything becomes a part of the made-up culture war, giving more ammo to the argument of "How far back do we have to go? Where does it stop?" — a question that none of them actually want to consider any answers to. Most normal people today will readily agree that rape and slavery are heinous acts, even if they're willing to forgive their heroes of those wretched crimes. But Douglass wasn't a rapist or a slave owner like so many other American historical figures; the worst thing the guy ever did (that I'm aware of, anyway) was spew some kinda-cringey words about alcoholism and Catholicism in Ireland, while he was out campaigning for Irish independence (Douglass was a teetotaller, and a devout anti-Papist Protestant).
Frederick Douglass statue vandalized in Rochester park, on anniversary of famous speech [Kaitlyn Luna / WBTW]
Image: Mike Licht / Flickr (CC 2.0)