Monday, November 23, 2015

"I say keep Calhoun enshrined and teach the history of the Ivy League universities. Remind students that every Ivy League endowment, with the possible exception of Cornell, was connected either to the slave trade or to the Atlantic economy that could be constructed as a result."

Rutgers historian James Livingston writes: 

At Yale, the demand is to erase the monumental memory of Sen. John C. Calhoun, a force behind slavery and secession. At Princeton, the demand is to do the same with the physical memorialization of Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. president who segregated federal offices in 1913.

To my mind, these are ways of forgetting the past — repressing and mutilating it rather than learning from it, or, as the shrinks would say, working through it.

This nation was built on slavery and its offspring, racism. To think that we can ignore this fundamental fact is to pretend that we can escape the past, in keeping with that old frontier thesis — if we just light out for the territory along with Huck Finn, why, we’ll slip the yoke of a civilization predicated on barbarism. That way lie boyish beginnings and a model of the American Adam, but nothing else worth thinking with, or about.

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