DEVELOPING OVERNIGHT: Sitting statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn at UVA has been vandalized. "Racist + Rapist" are spray painted on the statue. pic.twitter.com/MTwBmZhIqS— NBC29 (@NBC29) April 13, 2018
A University of Virginia statue honoring Thomas Jefferson was vandalized with the words “racist” and “rapist” in red spray paint this week.
Officials said the vandalism occurred sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning. Friday marks “Founder’s Day,” a celebration of Jefferson’s 275th birthday. The third president of the United States founded UVA in 1819.
“The university is disappointed that individuals vandalized the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn on the day that we honor his contributions to our University and to our democracy,” a UVA statement read.
Officials also recognized “the complexities of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy,” adding that they encourage “open and civil discourse on such important issues.”
“However, acts of vandalism do not contribute to meaningful discussion,” they cautioned.
At first glance, one might agree that an honest conversation about Jefferson (and other controversial statues) shouldn’t involve acts of criminality. Yet those conversations are very necessary, especially given the rise of hate-inspired rhetoric and crimes in recent years, and the university ought to take steps to rectify the misdeeds of its founder and recognize racism is a real and present danger on campus.
In some ways, UVA has moved forward. The university is planning to erect a monument dedicated to honoring slaves who were a part of its history.
“The memorial will acknowledge and honor the estimated 5,000 individuals who built and maintained the University,” UVA wrote on its website.
However, more focus ought to be given to Jefferson’s misdeeds as well, and that’s likely what the vandal was aiming to do. Sometimes, civil acts of disobedience help highlight the ills of our nation’s history and may prompt a necessary conversation that others would rather avoid or ignore entirely. Hopefully the vandalism discovered on Friday can be the catalyst for such a discussion.