Why I'm So Over Andrew Jackson & Ready For Harriet Tubman To Be On The $20 Bill
It was a thrilling hump-day surprise to hear that the seventh president Andrew Jackson — who I think of mainly as a slave-owner, genocidal maniac and generally unpleasant dude — would been ousted from the front of $20 bill and replaced by Harriet Tubman. This is a significant move for better historical representation of women — especially women of color — who are often given the short end of the stick when it comes to American history. It's also a significant move for people like me who have been sipping on the #haterade for Jackson since being forced to outline American exceptionalism textbook chapters about and write a DBQ essay about him in the seventh grade.
So, forgive the buzzing excitement because this is something I've wanted to write since I first side-eyed the chalkboard in my seventh grade U.S. history class back in 2004: I really, really f*cking hate Andrew Jackson. He sucked so, so hard.
And before you say "Who cares? The $20 bill is best used for drug deals in the supermarket parking lot," let's not forget that the spot on this super commonly used bill is a daily testament to his legacy of destruction. And, as our favorite $10-founding-father-without-a-father, Alexander Hamilton (whose position has rightfully been saved) has shown us — the ways we remember historical figures and hold on to their legacies today can have a lasting impact on our culture and the ways we perceive our past and present. So, yeah, it matters.
Unfortunately, I don't think the decision to move Jackson "to the rear of the $20, in some reduced image," according to The New York Times, is doing enough to unseat that history of white supremacy that is not-so-subtly upheld by keeping a slave-holder with a violent history in a prominent place. But I'm willing to support a baby step in the right direction if it means not seeing this particularly nasty, smug (and sometimes smirky if you bend it just right) face every time I hit up the ATM.
Here's why I firmly believe Jackson was a garbage president. I want you to imagine Donald Trump, but with larger hands and way less concern for getting blood on them. I want you to imagine a high profile political official who took part in hundreds of duels; imagine a man who straight-up shot and killed a guy for insulting his wife. I want you to imagine a man who had such little regard for the lives of Native Americans that his "relocation" of the Cherokee nation decimated their population — he established the genocidal policy known as the "Trail of Tears." That's who we were dealing with — and I can't pretend I don't think of that as the textbook (albeit not an American History textbook) definition of a monster.
It's not cool anymore to hear a record of violence celebrated — even in the banal everyday exchange of cash-money. That's why it's more than satisfying to see a moment of self-awareness and reckoning, where the United States determines the narratives of our history that represent our values in 2016. It's rewarding to know that we're starting to peal away the layers upon layers of symbols celebrating violent masculinity, imperialism and hatred. One down — many, many more to go.