To the editor:
It is now time for Trump supporters to show, as they claim, that they did not support the outgoing president because of his racism. The move to put Harriet Tubman’s likeness on the $20 bill, begun in the previous administration, was deep into the final implementation stage of a multi-year process in 2020 when Trump caused Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to halt the rollout and announce its delay until “sometime in 2028.” They cited laughably spurious reasons for their move.
The American public had a proper and appropriate chance to give input during the process to choose Tubman’s face for our currency, and they were significantly on board with the idea of putting the early abolitionist, soldier for women’s suffrage, leader, and patriot on the front of a bill while relegating Andrew Jackson — himself a slave holder — to the back. Surveys at the time showed a clear majority support. Tubman is a much-admired historical figure, and the move to put her likeness on the twenty was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
The Trump administration’s decision to stop the process was cynical and darkly symbolic. It was not done for any practical reason related to the making of a new bill. It was done for the message it sent. Precisely for the power of the hurt that it caused. Do I need to plainly state what that symbolism was, or can you also see it? To me, Trump’s move screamed, “Black lives do not matter! Strong women are not worthy of honor! We do not care about those who fought to end slavery, nor do we particularly mind if this country still honors those who lobbied to keep it intact!” In fact, one of Trump’s final official acts as president was to fight to retain Confederate “hero” names for U.S. military bases.
Please join me in calling on the new administration to quickly put the Tubman Twenty process back on the fast track. In this way we can show all Americans that we respect women, that racial animosity has no place in our political process or in our hearts, and that we can firmly and forever aver that slavery and those who supported it—or those who continue to wink at its history—must be repudiated.
Let us ensure that a deserving American hero takes her rightful place on our currency.
Eric W Jensen