The Cancel Culture Is Beginning To Cancel Their Former Heroes

The New York Sun posted an article yesterday about Princeton University’s decision to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from its school of public affairs. This reverses a decision made four years ago when the topic was also brought up.

The article reports:

…That was in 2016, when Princeton’s trustees, reacting to concerns within the school community and given impetus by Black Lives Matter, appointed a committee to appraise the 28th president of America, decided to continue to honor him.

At issue then was “the position he took as Princeton’s president to prevent the enrollment of black students and the policies he instituted as U.S. president that resulted in the re-segregation of the federal civil service.” Wilson’s name was on not only the School of Public & International Affairs but also a residential college. The board followed the committee’s recommendation to keep Wilson’s name. It issued what seemed to be an important statement.

“Contextualization is imperative,” it said. “Princeton must openly and candidly recognize that Wilson, like other historical figures, leaves behind a complex legacy with both positive and negative repercussions, and that the use of his name implies no endorsement of views and actions that conflict with the values and aspirations of our times.” As the cancel movement spreads today, that plea for context seems even more important.

The article concludes:

So where does that leave us? Writing in 2016 of Wilson’s views on race, scholar David Kennedy said that “We can wish that he had possessed qualities of imagination and empathy that would have liberated him from those views, but he did not.” Kennedy concluded that “In a world where there is no shortage of evil, it surely seems perverse to highlight the imperfections, rather than the positive accomplishments, of those who tried to do their best.”

Four years after echoing Professor Kennedy’s judgment, Princeton has suddenly zeroed in on Wilson’s imperfections. Whether that will serve the cause of racial understanding at the university remains to be seen. How sad it would be were one of two Princeton graduates to lead America and Princeton’s only Nobel laureate in peace — not to mention the coiner of the motto “Princeton in the Nation’s Service” — confined to the margin of the university’s institutional memory.

We seem to have lost the concept of viewing history in its context. Slavery and racism are part of America’s past, but slavery is gone and racism is not the acceptable order of the day, as it once was. Renaming things and tearing down statues will not change what was. It is time instead to deal with what is and work to make it better.

This Is Getting Totally Ridiculous

If I don’t like a historic figure, can I simply write a letter to get whatever road, building, bridge or whatever is named after him renamed? It seems to be going that way.

The Daily Caller posted an article yesterday about the mad dash to rename buildings that were named after Civil War Confederate Generals and other dignitaries of the Confederacy. This prompted another request.

The article reports:

A history teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, Ore. is lobbying for the school to change its name, reports local CBS affiliate KOIN-TV.

The teacher, Hyung Nam, has been calling for a new name for Wilson High for several months.

“We’d have to be ignorant about history to continue to affiliate ourselves with this man,” the history teacher wrote in an April 22 email to all staffers.

…When Wilson was the president of Princeton University, he steadfastly claimed that no black person had ever or would ever apply to the Ivy League school (which now boasts a college named for him).

“The whole temper and tradition of the place are such that no Negro has ever applied for admission, and it seems unlikely that the question will ever assume practical form,” the man who would become president in 1913 said.

While we are at it, what are we going to do with all those things in West Virginia that are named for Senator Robert C. Byrd? If you are interested, you can find a list of places in West Virginia named for Senator Byrd here.

In 2010 The Daily Caller said the following about Robert Byrd:

Byrd joined the Klan (Ku Klux Klan) at the ripe young age of 24 — hardly a young’un by today’s standards, much less those of 1944, when Byrd refused to join the military because he might have to serve alongside “race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds,” according to a letter Byrd wrote to Sen. Theodore Bilbo at the height of World War II.

My point is this: There are some people and chapters in American history that are not pretty. Some of our leaders were racists. However, that was then and this is now. Let’s learn from our past mistakes and move forward. We can’t change the leaders that we elected in the past, but we can pay attention to the views of the leaders we elect in the future. Scrubbing names off of schools, roads, and monuments will not change history. It might even prevent us from being aware of our past mistakes.