Via the Washington Examiner:
About two dozen anti-abortion leaders and pastors, most of them black, gathered in front of the National Portrait Gallery Thursday morning to protest its display of a bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
Chanting “you must remove the bust,” E.W. Jackson and other black activists argued that various writings and statements by Sanger prove she was a racist white supremacist who doesn’t deserve to be honored alongside civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
“If Margaret Sanger had her way, Rosa Parks and MLK would never have been born,” said Jackson, who heads the group Staying True to America’s National Destiny, or, STAND. “It’s an outrage the national museum would honor such a person and add insult to injury by putting her in the Struggle for Justice exhibit.”
Jackson said he has gathered 14,000 signatures for a petition to have the bust removed. . . .
The National Portrait Gallery has said it won’t remove the bust. Director Kim Sajet said there is no “moral test” for people to be accepted into the gallery.
Sajet’s is a good nominee for Idiotic Quote of the Day. Reminder: Sanger’s bust is in an exhibit called “The Struggle for Justice.” Affirmative moral judgment undergirds the whole exhibit.
Yet sympathetic as I am to the protesters’ ends — Godspeed the day Margaret Sanger is an object of national scorn! — I confess ambivalence toward the means. Over the past few months, we’ve seen removing “offensive” statues become a way of disappearing disagreeable episodes in American history. Whatever the merits of some of these efforts (for instance, minimizing persisting psychic wounds in the country, etc.), the inquisition went positively lunatic, extending even to Thomas Jefferson. Suffice it to say that “racism” and “white supremacy” have become such grave charges that they automatically outweigh any other considerations (even, in the case of Jefferson, that he composed one of the greatest political documents in the history of mankind).
Additionally, the protesters’ charge would be more incisive if “The Struggle for Justice” were exclusively about racial justice. But it’s not. Sanger is one of several persons — Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Betty Friedan — lauded for advancing the causes of women. So we’re left with a sticky question: Does Margaret Sanger’s racism outweigh her contribution to the “advancement” of women? Or did she do so much good (“good”) for women that we can forgive her white supremacy?
That National Portrait Gallery — and our larger pluralistic culture — have no reliable way to adjudicate such a dispute. Certain hierarches have developed, so that we play a sort of identity RoShamBo (race trumps sexuality, sexuality trumps religion, &c.), but these judgments are historically determined — e.g., class, which matters little in the U.S., matters immensely in Great Britain — and, given a little thought, not particularly compelling.
The case against Margaret Sanger’s inclusion in a de facto Hall of American Heroes is not that she violated the sanctity of this or that identity group; it’s that her project, in principle and consequence, was decidedly un-American. Her eugenicist scheme favored certain lives over others, and she claimed for herself and other enlightened persons the right to determine who was and was not “fit” for procreation; while her crusade for “sexual liberation,” institutionalized in the form of Planned Parenthood, devalued life, enabling the abortion-on-demand regime that has made possible America’s 1 million abortions per annum. Sanger’s “triumph” has been the creation of a culture that glorifies casual sexuality — at enormous economic, moral, and psychological cost — and that has grown numb to barbarism.
Richard Wagner, who was anti-Semitic, wrote some beautiful music. While I despise anti-Semites, I love Wagnerian music. The thing is, he did not write his music to celebrate the destruction of Jews.
The benefits women derive from Planned Parenthood and Sanger’s vision are not their own; they were intended for those “inferior” people she deemed unnecessary for white people to have around. Abortion and birth control were intended to wipe out undesirables, not benefit any woman that wanted to unburden themselves with an inconvenient pregnancy; it’s just that, primarily, white women benefit the most from them.
Aside from white supremacists, Sanger should be the hero of no one.