Over the past week in the aftermath of violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, activists have increasingly been pushing for Confederate statues in the region to be removed. Duke University, the University of Texas, Austin, Lexington’s mayor and a number of other groups have been swift in responding and moving to remove symbols that glorify historical figures who fought and died for white people’s right to buy and sell African-Americans.
And yet, unsurprisingly, many, such as the president himself, continue to defend and even celebrate these statues as works of art, instead of the dark relics of historical racial hatred that they are. Despite saying on the campaign trail that he would rip down a Confederate flag, Trump last week called Confederate statues “beautiful.” The bitter strife that comes with removing them speaks volumes about how far we still have to go as a country.
But in either case, quite characteristically, at a time when a very serious issue regarding equality is unfolding in our national dialogue, former Republican presidential candidate and notorious anti-abortion crusader Mike Huckabee found a way to pivot and bring abortion rights into the loop.
Just as President Trump equated the “alt-left” to the “alt-right,” suggesting feminists and progressives who want universal health care are the same evil as neo-Nazis following events in Charlottesville, Huckabee equated the offensive nature of Confederate statues to that of abortion clinics in a bizarre Fox News interview last week.
Of course, to top it all off, his analogy is about why he’s against removing the statues, revealing that as much as he loathes a woman’s right to choose, he sympathizes with racists even more.
According to Huckabee, removing the statues is “a matter of having a select group of people tear something down because it offends them personally.”
“I’m okay if we want to go through the process of public meetings and city officials taking the statues down,” Huckabee continued. “What we can’t do, is have anarchists go tear down the statues because they’re impatient with politicians doing it.”
“That’s not acceptable behavior, that’s vandalism, it’s anarchy, and it would be like me saying I don’t like abortion clinics — so I’m just going to go tear them down because I find them offensive. Nobody would justify that, including me, that’s what I think we’re coming to.”
There’s obviously a lot to unload here. To his credit, at least Huckabee recognizes that in a land of laws he can’t physically attack a Planned Parenthood clinic — an idea you’d think would be non-controversial in the 21st century, but sadly, isn’t, considering all the violence and threats clinics continue to be subjected to. In either case, to clarify for all the abortion foes in his base that might be disappointed to hear Huckabee say this, his actions and other stances show that he certainly supports making these clinics as inaccessible and stigmatized as possible.
Still, not to his credit, Huckabee and a number of high-profile anti-abortion law-makers continue to liken abortion rights to slavery and the Holocaust, which has never been OK and certainly isn’t at a time of heightened racial tensions and anti-semitic sentiments.
If anything, bans on abortion — the state forcing women to carry children and give birth against their wills — hardly sound like freedom. But in their zeal to bring babies into a world where they’ll likely struggle to access health care, education, food and shelter, anti-choice people like Huckabee rarely consider women as free people with rights and a stake in the abortion debate. The irony would almost be comical if it weren’t so dark.
Of course, the fact that Huckabee is personally offended by abortion clinics isn’t itself an issue — everyone is more than welcome to have personal reservations about the procedure; in turn, they can make the choice for themselves to not have it. But the existence of abortion clinics serves a purpose — one that helps women make choices about and have autonomy over their bodies, one that contributes to public health at large.
No matter what any one individual may feel about abortion, everyone benefits from women having access to crucial, sometimes life-saving resources and health services. The existence of abortion clinics doesn’t serve to glorify the procedure — it exists to serve crucial health needs, to allow women to access rights and resources that enable them to be equal with men.
But today in an America where slavery is illegal, where Nazism and white supremacy must be relics of the past, the only individuals served by Confederate statues are white supremacists, who can use them to remind us all of a dark and sadly prolonged moment in our nation’s history when white people owned, raped, abused, bought, and sold black people objects, and with gross rhetoric and Tiki torches, attempt to drag us back there. The existence of these statues suggests that our government and ruling bodies continue to celebrate zealous crusaders for slavery and inequality, and in that vein, celebrate slavery and inequality.
And ultimately, it would be impossible to stress just how much white supremacists benefit from Confederate statues without stressing how much African Americans are forced to suffer from them.
“Anti-choice people forced to pass Planned Parenthood clinics on their commute aren’t forced to stare into the wistful eyes of a monument extolling a 400 + year history of oppression, rape, genocide and racism,” Bronywnn Isaac wrote, at Bustle. “It could also be noted that Planned Parenthood clinics didn’t spark a rally last weekend that left a peaceful protester dead, and 20-year-old DeAndre Harris beaten by white supremacists while cops stood by.”
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.