Spanish— Rewriting history has always been a temptation when reaching the highest position of power in a nation. Every new administration always seeks to make far-reaching changes, and Joe Biden’s administration is no exception. But its changes go beyond the political, social, and economic arena. Symbolism also seems to be on the agenda of the Democrat, who was determined to present a cabinet that was considered the most diverse and now accelerates the modification of a bill with racial background.
Less than a week in the White House, Biden asked to speed up the process to replace the figure of former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bills with that of Harriet Tubman, an activist who defended the rights of African descendants, who escaped from slavery and helped other slaves escape.
This process began at the end of Barack Obama’s term with Joe Biden as his vice-president. On the occasion of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, a campaign was activated to modify the $20 bill in 2020 to include a woman. Harriet Tubman was the chosen one.
Racial sensitivity and how to please them all
Under Donald Trump’s administration, this project did not see the light of day. The former president said that Tubman had been a “fantastic” person but opposed this change because he considered that it only obeyed the intention of doing the “politically correct,” as reported by Breitbart. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, is a figure admired by Trump, who has been appearing on the face of the bill for almost 100 years.
Racial sensitivity in the United States reaches unsuspected levels to the point that even cartoons can be considered racist. It is doubtful whether vindicating the rights of a minority with symbolic decisions of this kind does not also hurt the sensibility of those who may feel used for populist purposes by a political bias.
For this reason, Trump considered that by crossing the line of the so-called race theory, far from vindicating rights, one could incur in “divisive propaganda.” It was then that he decided to prohibit funding from federal agencies to training programs related to “racially sensitive” issues.
Reflecting on “history and diversity”
The Biden administration’s decision to accelerate the change was announced Monday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the Treasury Department is taking steps to resume the change.
“It’s important that our bills, our money … reflect the history and diversity of our country, and the image of Harriet Tubman adorning the new $20 bill will certainly reflect that. That’s why we are exploring ways to accelerate this effort.”
NEW: White House says Treasury Dept. is "taking steps to resume efforts" to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Press Sec. Psaki says the Biden admin. is "exploring ways to speed up that effort." pic.twitter.com/z7Jw5CqXP0
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 25, 2021
Changes with a new vision of history
Either to leave a mark or to ingratiate themselves with a sector of the population, populist governments usually appeal to this type of symbolic changes that somehow seek to impose a new vision of history. In Venezuela, this has been a constant since Hugo Chavez came to power. The reasons, in this case, have ranged from the esoteric to feeding the class struggle.
In the South American nation, it was not only a matter of replacing on a whim on the banknotes the heroes of independence with new figures such as the caique Guaicaipuro. The obsession to change history went even further, modifying patriotic symbols such as the flag and the coat of arms.
Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837) has appeared on the $20 bill since 1928. Since then, new security mechanisms have been incorporated but without removing the portrait of the founder of the Democratic Party. Ironically, Jackson will not be removed from banknotes by a Republican but by the initiative and execution of two Democratic presidents.