Princeton and Racism
It is interesting how one's interests in issues change or intensify over the years. This is especially true after dancing with death, as I have twice. I love teaching history at the college level. I also love traveling, in part, because it enables me to more fully understand history. Case in point, I have been in Egypt a couple of time. On one occasion, I guided a tour, and the other time was traveling on my own. I love ancient Egyptian history.
For example, Maat is both a basic concept of the Egyptian antiquity and also depicted as a goddess. Maat is the process of bringing harmony and justice to the ancient Egyptian society.
Maat also weighed the souls of the departed by use of one of her feathers. In Egypt, the soul resided in the human heart. At death, the heart was removed and weighed against a feather of Maat. This process of weighing of the heart determined whether the deceased would go to paradise or not. In addition, the weighing of the heart was the ethical basis of the ancient Egyptian society and held it together.
I read recently of the Black Justice League's sit-in. They were upset with Princeton's use of President Woodrow Wilson's name on either buildings or programs at the university.
The Black Justice League had a sit-in at President Eisgruber's office to make their point. Their point of concern was that Wilson's name perpetuated his overt racism while he was the president at Princeton and also of the nation.
The protests bothered me for a couple of reasons. Wilson was a racist. However, removing his name from anything at Princeton seems like a stretch and poor logic for at least two major reasons.
The first reason is that, while Wilson had clearly defined racist attitudes, he did a great deal for America regardless of race. He got many things through Congress, such as the Federal Reserve, Federal Trade Commission, anti-trust laws, and 8-hour workdays for railroad workers. He especially tried to improve the Treaty of Versailles, which ran-counter to our other Allies during WWI, Lloyd George, Orlando, and Clemenceau. He pushed for the League of Nations. He also supported the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote.
The second reason is the removing of Wilson's name does not seem rational or logical. If that is carried to a logical conclusion, we will be removing the names of others who have had racist ideas. That would result in renaming a large percentage of buildings throughout America. Further, we would have to rename our nation's capital, since George Washington had slaves. In addition, it would mean renaming many universities across the country. The vast renaming adventure would include renaming streets.
If the renaming of things and places due to racism becomes our modus operandi, what about renaming things that had the name of a sexist? That would indeed be a Herculean endeavor. That would remove the vast majority of the names not already removed due to racist beliefs. If we are dealing with those two –isms, what about people who are anti-gay, anti-climate change, or anti-healthcare reform?
Methinks that Maat had it correct back in the Old Kingdom in Egypt over four millennia ago. We need to go back to weighing of the heart methodology.
Visit the Stupid is As Stupid Does page to read more about this topic.