Is George Washington an unspeakable name? How about unusable?
Over the past few years, a campaign has taken aim at America’s history. “Out with the old” has been its mantra.
And as slaveholders and alleged racists from the nation’s past have been canceled, a countdown has begun: How long ’til they aggressively go after Washington?
“Washington Redskins” was labeled an offensive name, but while the second word was whacked by the woke, the first remained a room-packing pachyderm.
Now, perhaps, the enlightened are getting out their elephant gun.
Case in point: a Washington Post op-ed.
In “George Washington University Needs a New Name,” pre-law student Caleb Francois shoots straight:
Racism has always been a problem at GW. At the university’s founding in 1821, enrollment was restricted to White men. In 1954, then-university president [Cloyd Heck Marvin] employed numerous efforts to preserve segregation, arguing for a ‘homogenous’ group of White students.
He itemizes the issues:
- Black enrollment is roughly 10 percent
- Black students “struggle for community”
- There’s a dearth of “adequate minority representation”
- Black professorship remains low
- Fewer black teachers = “a campus culture in which European studies and White perspectives are favored”
- No African languages are taught
Caleb’s pinpointed the source:
These problems are rooted in systemic racism, institutional inequality and white supremacy.
It’s an interesting idea: The evil of past segregation looms, as the offered solution is — if I adequately understand — segregation. What other word, after all, would describe a paradigm in which students of a particular race will only have “community” if more of the same join in?
Regardless, he’s finagled a four-point plan:
- Decolonized university curriculum
- Increased Black enrollment
- The selection of an African American President
- The renaming of the university
These days, decolonization’s all the rage:
As for Washington, his name isn’t the only problematic moniker mucking up the GW area:
Just blocks from the main campus is the Mount Vernon Campus, named for George Washington’s former slave plantation. Every day, hundreds of Black students walk on a campus named after an enslaver of men and study at a site named after dark parts of history. Such sites, among other locations and buildings, are touted as glorified mementos here at GW. The indignity and injustice of such sites remain overlooked. The racist visions of James Madison, Winston Churchill and others are glorified through building names, programs, statues and libraries that honor their memory.
Caleb insists the “controversial Winston Churchill Library must go,” and “even the university’s name, mascot and motto — ‘Hail Thee George Washington’— must be replaced.”
Which leads to quite the question: If the country gets rid of George Washington, what, rightfully, will we have left?
If the father of the country is taken out, what remains of our orphan Republic’s history?
There’ll be a lot to remove — Washington state, Washington D.C., the One Dollar bill…
How about the last name “Washington,” which — I believe — isn’t uncommon among black Americans?
To use a woke word, where does the “erasure” stop?
Wherever that is, it’ll presumably be too short for some.
Meanwhile, Caleb has a suggestion for the university’s rebranding:
Frederick Douglass, a statesmen, political scientist, diplomat, feminist and abolitionist, is a perfect example of a possible namesake to replace George Washington. His work for social reform and equal justice make him an ideal candidate for a new name. Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Malcom X, among many others, transformed the United States by fighting for the liberation of Black people here and all over the world. Heroes such as these should be celebrated and represented here at GW.
“For me, my ‘X’ replaced the white slave master name of ‘Little’ which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed on my parental forebears.”
After a transformative experience in the Middle East, Malcolm renounced racism. Oddly, his later words would likely be more offensive to our contemporary cultural caretakers:
“I saw all races, all colors, blue eyed blonds to black skinned Africans in true brotherhood! In unity! Living as one! Worshiping as one! No segregationists, no liberals; they would not have known how to interpret the meaning of those words.”
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”
Perhaps Caleb hasn’t read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Maybe one day it’ll be required reading — at Malcolm X University, located in Frederick Douglass, D.C.
Oh — and one more bound to bite the dust: the not-necessarily self-aware Washington Post.
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