Making Harriet Tubman the new face of the $20 bill is no more “politically correct” than having Andrew Jackson’s smug mug on it all these years for reasons no history buff can explain. Jackson was opposed to a national bank and against paper money – why does his face best represent it?

“Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Donald Trump said after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement that Tubman’s portrait will appear on the front of the double sawbuck and the seventh U.S. president’s will be on the back.

Rough for who? All those great Americans who made tons of money off slaves while pretending to fight for the little guy? The therapy establishment would call Trump’s reaction “political projection,” but I digress. Let’s keep our eye on the money.

Two-faced currency will be a powerful and accurate symbol of America’s struggle for a more perfect union. A black face and a white face. Man and woman. Slave and slave owner. What’s the problem?

Trump says he’s not opposed to Tubman; he opposes what he calls “political correctness,” but what really is simply progress on our collective journey as a country toward more freedom and justice. Trump is really opposed to critical thinking that might destabilize the patriarchal power structure to which his followers desperately cling.

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill. … Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness.”


The $2 bill? We might as well put Tubman on a wooden nickel and go back to the gold standard. It’s only the 21st century.

For decades, Republicans have been on the losing side of practically every major intellectual argument this country has had except one – until now. Gay marriage, abortion rights, the use of torture, background checks on gun purchases, immigration, tax cuts, health care – you name it, the GOP has lost the argument and as a result continues to lose members. The red tent keeps getting smaller.

One thing conservatives have done well is point out the hypocrisy of some on the left who use bullying and other means of censorship to impose their world view. Take, for example, the student protest of Condoleezza Rice speaking at Rutgers because of her involvement in the Iraq war. Not hearing what she has to say was better than hearing it? No. Of course not.

It was President Bush who correctly said in the early ’90s that “the notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land, and although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones.”

Amen. Robust public discourse is what tests ideas and ideology. A battle of wits is the best workout for a democracy. Winning hearts and minds must be the goal of political parties because without a worthy opponent, anybody will get lazy and fat.

Arguing against political correctness was the last worthy arrow conservatives had in their quiver in the battle against liberals who bully in the name of equality – until Trump and other right-wing wackos took over their party. In their world, “anti-establishment” is just another code word for “anti-intellectual.” Dumb is the new black in Trump’s camp, and if they win, we all lose. The anti-establishment left is not much better.


Tubman was born the property of a plantation owner and died an unsung American legend, until now. She escaped slavery and then aided and abetted the escape of others on the Underground Railroad. Born Araminta Ross, she later took the name Harriet and became a spy for the Union Army. She was a nurse in the Civil War and fought for women’s voting rights on top of taking care of her elderly parents and fighting for fair compensation for her life’s work building America. Establishment conservatives applaud her inclusion on U.S. currency for her extraordinary contribution to the country. That she was a gun owner and is replacing a former Democratic folk hero doesn’t hurt, either.

But anti-establishment is now anti-logic, as standing up for moral values is now “PC.”

The anti-establishment wings of both parties are militant, uncompromising and unwilling to see another point of view. These are bullies posing as patriots, but bullying in the name of justice is antithetical to the deeply held American values of free speech and intellectual discourse. The battle of ideas in the bedrock of democracy.

It was a Republican president who first thrust the concept of political correctness into the national political dialogue and raised important issues about the need to balance tolerance and free speech with righteousness and causes, and now it’s a Republican presidential candidate who is putting a stake through the heart of that sound argument.

Jackson was an orphan who fought great battles and rose to be president while amassing great personal wealth from slavery. Tubman was a slave who fought great battles amassing freedom for others. It’s not political correctness or incorrectness to juxtapose the portraits of these two Americans. It’s the true story of this country.

Truth isn’t correct or incorrect, and the historical record matters. Whether it’s money, monuments or portraits on the wall of government institutions, symbolism is the currency of political capital, and there’s enough to go around among all those who have made contributions.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: dillesquire

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