The National Association of Scholars stands with those who repudiate the destruction of public monuments through mob violence. Public monuments—whether of figures important to a group, such as Christopher Columbus or Robert E. Lee, or central to the American founding, such as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson—embody the memory of a nation and the values of its people. As Americans, we can and do disagree with one another over which figures deserve this honor. A monument once erected isn’t necessarily destined to stand for all time. But the decision to remove it should follow democratic processes, law, and due consideration of all views. A monument should never be removed through mob violence, nor should it be defaced by individuals acting out their own opposition to what the monument represents. The word for that is vandalism, and there is no place for it in civil society. It undermines genuine civic engagement and demoralizes our country. It stirs hatred and the desire for revenge. Public officials who turn a blind eye to such destruction betray the trust we put in them. Opinion leaders who justify vandalism deserve to be shamed. At the National Association of Scholars, we especially abhor the role of college and university faculty members or administrators who have applauded and abetted the wreckage of the public square. We call on colleges, universities, and other civic organizations to do their part in restoring the principles of respect for the common good. In this case, silence does abet violence, and topples our national self-respect.
National Association of Scholars
June 23, 2020