Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Not "Warts and All", But "Just the Warts"

Why renaming places because the honored person didn't hold today's correct views is silly:
A wide range of properties and portraits were suddenly deemed offensive because students, apparently, hadn’t realized that revered Founding Fathers owned slaves, and that most beloved and wealthy Americans born before the 20th century did not treat women, homosexuals, and people of color with great respect.

At Amherst college in Massachusetts efforts to rename the school’s unofficial mascot Lord Jeff picked up steam.

Students did not want to have a mascot honoring a British general, Lord Jeffery Amherst, who supported spreading smallpox to Native American during the French and Indian War.

There were more than a few objections to the noble fight, not least that removing the names of racist figures cannot rectify their past sins—nor does it help those in the present day understand history’s darker moments and complexities.

Removing admired statesman but horrendously pro-slavery John Calhoun’s name from a college at Yale, or racist but respected president and designer of the League of Nations Woodrow Wilson’s name from his school at Princeton, also do not rectify modern inequalities.

“It’s not doing the hard work of education,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Alfred L. Brophy told The Daily Beast. “Once you do the renaming, everyone forgets.”

2015 also saw a ridiculous twist in the renaming battles. While there may be a legitimate debate over how to handle monuments and buildings named for people who are clearly racist, sexist, and homophobic by today’s standards, a group of students at a Pennsylvania college wanted a building renamed because the name merely sounded like a racially charged act.

At Lebanon Valley College, some students demanded that the campus building Lynch Memorial Hall be renamed.

The “lynch” in it is not to honor the brutal and often racist mob murders, but to pay tribute to a beloved college president, Clyde A. Lynch. That Lynch not only led the school through the Great Depression and World War II, but spent his last years helping displaced refugees resettle in the U.S.
As I've said before, I'm entirely OK with teaching history "warts and all", but it seems that too many people today focus only on the warts.  As I once saw on the Facebook, "You are more than just your mistakes."

1 comment:

Pseudotsuga said...

It's too late for King County in Washington State. In a fit of madness, a few years ago the powers that be decided to rename King County after Martin Luther King. Why? umm...because no-raciss! Thasswhy! Thus we read in Wikipedia:

"The county was originally named after William Rufus King who was Vice-President when the Washington Territory was created. In 1986, a motion was introduced to change the namesake to Martin Luther King, Jr.[3] No public votes or hearings were taken on the change.[4]

On February 24, 1986, the King County Council passed Council Motion 6461 five votes to four setting forth the historical basis for the renaming of King County in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.[5] Because only the state can charter counties, this change was not made official until April 19, 2005, when the Governor signed Senate Bill 5332 into law.

The County Council submitted a vote to the public on February 27, 2006 to change the county's logo from a royal crown to an image of King.[6] On March 12, 2007, the new logo was unveiled.[7]"