Tag Archives: Calhoun College

this isn’t racism?



For Calhoun College students who fought for the name change, returning to campus to see signs for “Grace Hopper College” was energizing. “I think for a lot of people this summer has shown that it’s sort of beyond this ivory tower intellectual debate,” Maya Jenkins, a Hopper senior, said on Friday.

Admiral Hopper helped build the nation’s first electromechanical computer, developed the first compiler, proposed the idea of writing computer programs in words rather than symbols, and retired from the Navy at age 79.

Not that the university went far enough, Ms. Jenkins, a black student from Indiana, added in an email. “The college being renamed after a white woman does not fully rectify the violences of Calhoun’s legacy,” she wrote.

The university has opened two new residential colleges this semester, one named for a black Yale Law School alumna and civil rights leader, Anna Pauline Murray, and the other for Benjamin Franklin. The latter decision, too, has left many people “a little miffed,” said Vivian Dang, a Hopper College junior. “It’s another old white guy being honored.”


— “Calhoun Who? Yale Drops Name of Slavery Advocate for Computer Pioneer,” by Andy Newman and Vivian Wang, The New York Times, September 3, 2017





It’s not permissible any longer to honor a “white woman” and a “white guy”?

And, by the way, what is white, anyway, and what is black? When it comes to racial categories, that is.

Whites are not really white and blacks are not really black. Were my skin white, I would probably scare a lot of people.

I am a mixture of ethnicities and genes, as are all peoples and racial groups. Don’t we all have common ancestry?

There is such diversity in ethic groupings that it seems nonsensical to me to sort them into ironclad groupings. The groupings were made up by someone or other who manufactured them out of thin air, bureaucrats; they ignore many ethnic groups and sort them almost willy-nilly.

But, people will say, we are talking here about two identifiable groups: whites, meaning the population that is not black (excluding other minorities such as Asians and Hispanics) and African Americans, with one group being historically privileged (at least by comparison with the African American minority) and the other oppressed, both historically and, in many cases, still oppressed, as current events show.

I wish we could admire people for their individual qualities, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. urged. I wish we could welcome and respect ethnic and cultural diversity and recognize and acknowledge historical injustices without having to resort to racial stereotyping in the here and now.



— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017








Addendum: See also


“It’s time the Census Bureau stops dividing America”

by Ward Connerly and Mike Gonzalez

The Washington Post

January 3, 2018



“how about leaving the past alone?”



Yale Will Drop John Calhoun’s Name From Building

The New York Times

February 11, 2017


The article indicates that on February 11, Yale University announced — after years of debate — that it would change the name of one its residential colleges named after former U.S. senator and vice president John C. Calhoun. Calhoun, a nineteenth century Yale alumnus, was an ardent supporter of slavery.

The school is renaming Calhoun College after trailblazing computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper.

The “controversy over former Vice President John C. Calhoun’s legacy that had simmered for years and boiled over with campus protests in 2015,” the article noted.

“We have a strong presumption against renaming buildings on this campus,” Yale president Peter Salovey announced. “I have been concerned all along and remain concerned that we don’t do things that erase history. So renamings are going to be exceptional.”

Salovey said the case was exceptional because Calhoun’s principal legacy is at odds with the university’s values and mission.



A question.

How is it decided which cases are exceptional?

How about paragons of civic virtue such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They both were SLAVE OWNERS.

Yes, one might say (whether rightly is another matter), but Calhoun was WORSE.

True, it seems. But, according to “Ten Facts About Washington & Slavery,” a posting on a website maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association


Sources offer differing insight into Washington’s behavior as a slave owner. On one end of the spectrum, Richard Parkinson, an Englishman who lived near Mount Vernon, once reported that “it was the sense of all his [Washington’s] neighbors that he treated [his slaves] with more severity than any other man.” Conversely, a foreign visitor traveling in America once recorded that George Washington dealt with his slaves “far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia.” What is clear is that Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments. Perhaps most severely, Washington could sell a slave to a buyer in the West Indies, ensuring that the person would never see their family or friends at Mount Vernon again. Washington conducted such sales on several occasions.

Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland was founded with the support of George Washington himself. Should the school change its name? Where is the campus outrage over his slaveholding past?

Then we have Washington University in St. Louis, which was named after George Washington, and The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

What about the city itself? To ensure that no one is offended, should we change the name of our nation’s capitol from Washington to a “generic,” anodyne name such as Capitol City? A bland name with no emotional connotation. One hundred percent guaranteed not to offend. Protest proof!



The past is the past. With all its glories. And all its horrors. May I make a suggestion? How about leaving the past alone? We should not try to alter it, historically speaking, nor erase from public memory the names of persons who played a prominent part in history, whether for good or for bad.


— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017




— Of all the southern statesmen, we most admire Mr. Calhoun (barring certain items of opinion–not of much importance, however). He has an uprightness, an absence of trickery in politics, in his make. Without verging the least bit on rudeness of favoritism, he is “a plain blunt man that loves his friends.” He has a way, too, of amplifying and generalizing–a way that our politicians would do passing well to get in, all of them. He has a way of reducing things to first principles–by tests of right and constitutional correctness. Then he is sincere, above-board, not swayable by fear, selfishness, or favor. He is an honest politician.

Walt Whitman, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1846