Language Warning Placed on the Constitution Reflects a Broken National Archives

Language Warning Placed on the Constitution Reflects a Broken National Archives

( – As our society becomes more and more careful about the potential for offense in previously acceptable phrases, messages, and symbols, various difficulties have presented themselves. How, for example, do we deal with items of historical importance that have no awareness of the cultural norms of the present day?

Are Our Founding Documents Offensive?

Justin Haskins is the head of the Stopping Socialism Project at the Heartland Institute. The Federalist published an editorial by Haskins on Thursday, September 16, in which he highlights the censorship of important historical documents by the National Archives.

Haskins notes that the group has targeted the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence in a sweeping effort to attach trigger warnings to potentially offensive historical content. These warnings take the form of a “Harmful Language Alert” on online versions of the documents. According to the National Archives, these documents’ “harmful” messaging includes racism, sexism, and ableism.

Statues & Monuments

This argument first came to prominence in a slightly different context when activists became concerned about public monuments celebrating people and ideas that are controversial by today’s standards. This debate has been simmering for years, but it exploded to the forefront in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota in 2020.

One prominent example was a statue honoring George Preston Marshall outside the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the home of the Washington Redskins. Marshall, the founder of the Redskins, publicly opposed the notion of signing a black player to the team in 1961, saying he was “the team of the South.”

Clearly, such ideas are radically out of touch with the values America adheres to today. Does that mean, though, that we need to erase all evidence that people like Marshall ever existed?

Many historians believe that the best way to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past is to remain as aware of them as we possibly can. That’s why, in Germany, the sites of World War II concentration camps remain preserved to this day, even opening their doors to tours for school children. It’s the country’s way of ensuring a force like fascism cannot easily retake hold.

Does Haskins Have a Point?

According to Justin Haskins, efforts to highlight problematic phrasing in centuries-old founding documents represent an attempt by the Biden administration to “rewrite [the] story… of America’s exceptional past.” Instead, he opines, our leaders would be better off trying to promote our nation’s countless achievements.

Does he have a point?

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