–Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America
[Note on why I have included this quote: This quote is representative of the idea that people see what they want to see in history, while ignoring what they don’t. While in many ways Theodore Roosevelt was very progressive (one of our most progressive presidents in some respects), yet he still was a man very much of, and constrained by the ideologies of, his time. The idea that rape was being committed on a large scale by African American men against (white) women is an old, exaggerated, and thoroughly false accusation. This argument was used to avoid the terrible nature of lynchings and protect the perpetrators, in a system akin to what happens in rape culture today.
It is important that people acknowledge a more complete and complex picture of history and historical figures. It is possible to acknowledge the achievements of historical figures, while at the same time condemning them for their failings, immorality, and flaws, among other negative features, after all they are only human. So often we put historical figures on a pedestal, both literally and figuratively, overlooking anything that deviates from our preconceived narrative of said persons. We glorify achievements, while ignoring faults; even when we have pointed out such faults in others. It is analogues to the lesson from the proverbial saying of the Mote and Beam. While celebrating history is fine, and in fact should be encouraged, sanctifying it distorts the truth. History is not a straight-forward and linear discipline, history is messy and complex, made all the more so by the permanent loss of historical records of the past and egos who let ideology and notions speak in place of documented record.]
Quote Number: 1103
Source: Roosevelt, Theodore. “1906 State of the Union Address.” Speech, Washington, DC, December 3, 1906. American History: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/theodore-roosevelt/state-of-the-union-1906.php
Source Notes: Immediate context for the above quote, for full context see source:
“A great many white men are lynched, but the crime is peculiarly frequent in respect to black men. The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by black men, of the hideous crime of rape–the most abominable in all the category of crimes, even worse than murder. Mobs frequently avenge the commission of this crime by themselves torturing to death the man committing it; thus avenging in bestial fashion a bestial deed, and reducing themselves to a level with the criminal.
Lawlessness grows by what it feeds upon; and when mobs begin to lynch for rape they speedily extend the sphere of their operations and lynch for many other kinds of crimes, so that two-thirds of the lynchings are not for rape at all; while a considerable proportion of the individuals lynched are innocent of all crime.”