Petitioning University of Oregon

LET'S GET THIS RACIST MURAL IN A FEDERALLY- FUNDED UNIVERSITY LIBRARY REMOVED! #TEARITDOWN

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MURAL BOASTING THE PRESERVATION OF WHITE SUPREMACY IN PUBLIC LIBRARY OF A FEDERALLY-FUNDED UNIVERSITY


As a college student, it is common for me or anyone else at any point in time to need to end up in the library. Being a student at the large, federally funded public university, the University of Oregon, it can be a place that people spend a significant amount of their college career at. The library is supposed to be a place of learning without fear or distraction. Upon entering the Knight Library, the largest and most trafficked library on our campus, in order to go upstairs (which we all obviously have to do at some point), the West stairwell features a mural that is riddled with racist and white supremacist undertones. The mural reads as follows:

 

THE MISSION OF A UNIVERSITY

The University process is a social process that does not stop short of transforming men. To achieve such profound results it must utilize the principle of all for each and each for all directed to the highest ends of life. Its organization must evoke the most intimate interplay of thought & purpose. It must amount to a life process fully socialized. From now on it must be a climb if our nation is to hold its position among the nations of the Earth. It means conservation and betterment not merely of our national resources but also of our racial heritage and of opportunity to the lowliest. This must be our passion and the universities must be its prophets.

Frederick George Young B.A. LL. D.

1858-1929

Professor of Social Science and Dean of Sociology

1895-1928

 

I have bolded the portions that I, as well as a number of my concerned peers, found to be extremely offensive and degrading to students of color, denigrating our very existence on this campus. Upon reading this mural, I immediately felt unwelcome and disconnected from a sense of fellowship and safety in the space meant for learning. The argument that these professors lived in a “different time” or any other sort of euphemistic jaw-flapping is just given to excuse the existence of overtly racist statements and symbols. This mural has no place in 2017 on the campus of a public university. It is not as though the campus library is an anthropological museum, documenting the racial grievances of a past generation, serving as a reminder to not repeat history. This is a library in a public university, whose contents and purpose serve to facilitate the pursuit of education and encourage acceptance for everyone who seeks knowledge to be able to gain it without fear of reproach. The placard stands at nearly three times my height and is impossible to avoid when going up the stairs. It serves as a constant reminder to myself and other students of color that we are not welcome here. We are not meant to be a part of this university. We are “the lowliest”, being thrown a bone in order to humor the university and bolster its ability to boast of its percentages of racial minorities. This façade of inclusion and diversity is shameful and hard to justify in the 21st century.

The mural was created in 1937 by the former University of Oregon art professor, Nowland B. Zane featuring the words of Frederick George Young, the dean of the School of Sociology at University of Oregon from 1919 until his death in 1929. Not much else is written about about these two individuals in terms of their personal opinions on race and preservation of whiteness on the campus, but Oregon being a historically white state, it can easily be deduced what is meant by conservation of "racial heritage". Oregon proclaimed themselves a "whites only" state, banning the "N*gro and Mulatto" beginning in 1859, and the statute was not technically removed from the books until 1922. Also, the 15th Amendment was not ratified in Oregon until 1959.  Not to mention, racial discrimination in public accommodations was completely legal until 1953.

This is not the only time way in which the University of Oregon has participated in tacitly racist behavior. There used to be several academic and residence halls named after individuals either who were involved with the KKK or were Klansmen themselves. The University begun a half-hearted attempt to change these names in response to some pushback. However, in the year 2017, there still remains a hall named after a Confederate officer Benjamin Hawthorne, as well as another mural in the same library that depicts overtly racist social darwinism. These subtle forms of racism may exist undetected by the untrained eye, but for those already deeply impacted by the current resurgence of racially-charged aggression, these symbols and ideations are insulting and detrimental to their learning environment.


It’s not as though there aren’t any other perfectly good and historically significant artwork that could replace it. Hell, even a toddler’s crayon drawing of a cat would be better than what is there now.


So f*ck it. Let’s let University of Oregon know it’s time that we #TearItDown

 

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