Tag Archives: Calhoun

Tony Kronman: Black Lives Do Not In Fact Matter. 

In 2017, Yale University renamed Calhoun College (at Yale, they call dormitories “residential colleges” because … Yale) after Grace Murray Hopper, a “trailblazing computer scientist, brilliant mathematician and teacher, and dedicated public servant.”  John C. Calhoun was a prominent Yale alumnus and U.S. Senator and, of course, passionate defender of slavery as a positive good.

Yale Law professor and former dean Anthony Kronman objects, explaining that, in his view:

Hitler and Stalin would have to come off buildings, but he says “less egregious” cases like Calhoun are different.

This is literally valuing the millions of white lives lost to the Holocaust and to Stalinism more highly than the millions of black lives lost to American slavery. And by “literally,” I literally mean “literally.”

Kronman accuses those who supported renaming a Yale college (that is, a dorm) — discarding the name of a prominent supporter of slavery for the name of a pioneering female scientist — of the sort of historical revisionism practiced by the Soviet Politburo.

Kronman says that colleges and universities have a responsibility to “cultivate the capacity for enduring the moral ambiguities of life.”

What in the absolute fuck is morally ambiguous about slavery?  It is precisely this sort of academic arrogance that actively devalues and excludes students of color and prevents real intellectual discussion and evolution. It’s also requires a special sort of intellectual laziness to easily acknowledge other countries’ monsters while being unwilling to face up to our own.

I’m ashamed of my school’s former dean and proud of Prof. John Fabian Witt for his excellent point-by-point demolition of Prof. Kronman’s indefensible defense of the defense of slavery.

 

Hostile Environment; or Stained Glass What the Fuck?

For generations, African-American employees and students have had to eat in the dining hall of a residential college — named, then and (stubbornly) now, for slavery advocate John C. Calhoun — and stare up at this stained glass window:

{Image: stained glass window showing a man and woman, both with dark skin, in 19th century clothing, standing in a cotton field, each with a basket of cotton on their head.}

It simply defies comprehension that this was allowed to remain.   The thought of trying to work, learn, teach, or even eat in the presence of this rights-erasing, humanity-denying decor makes me disgusted beyond words.  It would be like having a stained glass window of a gas chamber, torture device, or sanitarium.

I have previously blogged about Things That Are Inexplicably OK, like tenured Princeton professors advocating infanticide of disabled kids or a sports team in our nation’s capital named after a racist epithet.  This is way up there with all that.  Another respected institution of higher learning, this one decorated with a depiction of slavery.

Until today!  Yale dishwasher and civil rights action hero Corey Manafee stuck a broomstick through it.  Window smashed; problem (at least the decor problem) solved.

“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” he said. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

“I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it,’” he added. “I put myself in a position to do it, and did it.”

Damn right you shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.  My view is: every African-American who has had to work or study in that space has a hostile environment claim.

But Corey Menafee enters my personal Civil Rights Getting Shit Done Hall of Fame, along with Bree Newsome, who climbed up a flagpole and took down the Confederate flag, and the mayor of New Paltz, New York, who started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples (for a brief time until he was ordered to stop) in 2004.

Don’t wait for permission to do the right thing; just get shit done.