Fox News mouthpiece Geraldo Rivera announced that he resigned from his position as an associate fellow of Calhoun College after Yale University said it was renaming its college that pays tribute to John C. Calhoun, a former slave owner and notorious white supremacist.
“Been an honor but intolerant insistence on political correctness is lame,” Rivera tweeted this week.
Good riddance to Rivera – and Calhoun.
Yale’s president said the college will be renamed after Yale alumnus Grace Murray Hopper, a Navy rear-admiral, and a computer scientist trailblazer and mathematician.
The decision by Yale trustees wasn’t made simply because they thought it was the right thing to do: they were strong-armed.
Yale was forced to confront its racial past after civil rights leaders and students repeatedly demanded that Calhoun’s name be removed from the building. The protests started in 2015 and a growing chorus of complaints made its way to the president’s office.
Finally, Yale’s brain trust could no longer ignore the demonstrators and succumbed to sanity.
“The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly, but John C. Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values,” said a letter released by Peter Salovey, the president.
Calhoun, the nation’s 7th Vice President serving from 1825-1832, owned dozens of slaves in Fort Hill, South Carolina. He was an ardent supporter of slavery and he promoted bigoted stereotypes about Black people.
“I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin” are brought together, “the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good,” Calhoun wrote.
Yale’s controversy comes at a time when many conservatives feel, like Rivera, that calling out Calhoun as a slave owner and white supremacist is caving to “political correctness.”
But the debate over Yale’s racial past doesn’t end with Calhoun. Some African-American students at Yale have called for an end to formally acknowledging heads of colleges as “masters,” saying African-Americans students should not be required to call anyone at the university “master.”
I agree. The term “master” is archaic, racist and offensive and Yale should immediately discontinue the outdated practice.
The Yale controversy has caused other major universities to revisit their involvement with slavery. Academic institutions like Columbia, Harvard, William & Mary and Princeton are also investigating ties to slavery. Georgetown University came under fire when it was discovered that the institution sold over 272 slaves in 1838 to help the university stay afloat.
Imani Thornton, an African-American politics major at Princeton University, wrote about Calhoun in The Daily Princetonian last week.
“Calhoun was a racist, slave-holding reactionary who not only failed to see slavery for the economic hindrance that it was, but also held views arguably more racist than his contemporaries,” Thornton wrote.
“To uphold the names of racist figures and to defend their legacies does a great disservice to the marginalized who deserve to walk university halls without racist shadows looming over them,” she wrote. “I congratulate the protesters who championed the renaming of the college [at Yale] and I hope that other institutions, including Princeton, will one day do the same.”
I’m glad young people are speaking out about the racial history of their Ivy-league campuses and I hope college presidents are listening.
What do you think?