W&M: Change the Names, Take Down the Statues
W&M: Change the Names, Take Down the Statues
“Comparing them (blacks) by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid: and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”...“I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and the mind.”
“The Southerners took the negro as a barbarian and cannibal, civilized him, supported him, clothed him, and turned him out a better Christian than Abraham Lincoln, who was a free thinker, if not an atheist.”
Lyon Gardiner Tyler
“Virginia was the first State which instructed her delegates to declare the Colonies independent. She braved all dangers. From Quebec to Boston, and from Boston to Savannah, Virginia shed the blood of her sons. No imputation, then, can be cast upon her in this matter. She did all that was in her power to do, to prevent the extension of slavery, and to mitigate its evils. [James Monroe on why slaves would never be able to live in America as free citizens in the union since they would never be accepted, as he advocated for them to be sent back to Africa]”
“To set the slaves afloat at once would, I really believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief, but by degrees, it certainly might, and assuredly ought to be effected, and that, too, by legislative authority. [George Washington on the abolition of slavery]”
Lyon Gardiner Tyler. William B. Taliferro. Thomas Jefferson.Richard S. Ewell. George Washington. James Blair. James Monroe. Baron de Botetourt. All very different men with very different legacies, but one ideal in common- their ownership and enthusiastic upholding of slavery. These men all owned slaves-exploiting them as property to benefit them in any way they could. They all stood for the maintenance of an establishment that was based on the dehumanization and ownership of an entire race of people- a race of people that built William & Mary brick-by-brick. They had their names placed on these statues and buildings to honor these legacies and their ideals because our campus stood by those ideals. Our campus has benefited from the establishment of slavery and dedicated most of our history to upholding it. We were not bystanders in this oppression, but active partakers, dedicating our legacy to the Confederacy and the upholding of slavery. We dedicated buildings to slave owners, Confederate generals, and intellectuals who spent their lives defending slavery. Our bookstore was once a slave trading post, we had a flagpole given to us by the Ku Klux Klan, and were one of the last schools to integrate. William & Mary built its legacy on slavery and oppression and insisted on honoring these ideals as long as they possibly could.
Now, we claim we are trying to change that legacy. We claim that we’ve changed and are moving forward, and altogether this past is actively being dismantled. But these names- the legacy behind these names, the honor behind these names, and the ideals and mindset behind these names still stand- as statues and building names that look over our campus every day. How can we claim to have changed when these legacies are still written in stone and statues all over our campus? How can we say we want to honor the legacies on those enslaved on our campus while honoring those who owned them? How can we claim to change when Black students on our campus live in dorms that are named after people who owned their ancestors and validated their dehumanization in the name of economic gain and perceived superiority?
In the time we are in, it’s important to ask: What does William & Mary honor? Do we honor the ideals embodied by the men in these statues? Do we excuse them and say “Well it was just back then! They didn’t know any better!’ and stand by the racist statements our campus created its legacy with? Do we keep excusing this legacy, or do we actively change it?
We, the student body and William & Mary community, insist that we change it. We want the statues gone, immediately. We want these buildings renamed to accurately represent the ideals of the William and Mary community. We cannot claim to stand for diversity and inclusion and excuse men who spent their lives supporting slavery. We cannot claim to have changed this legacy while just ignoring it. Change is active. It can be uncomfortable, it can be controversial- but it must be active.
The decision behind these names will show what William & Mary stands for. It will reveal our legacy and show how far we have come, or how little we have changed. It is time for the administration to stand with their students, and stand against the legacy of oppression we built and benefitted from.
So-William & Mary- what do you stand for, and who do you stand with? Are you ready to finally change your legacy? Or do you fear discomfort, and value monetary gain from donors more than you value change for the very students you claim to represent?
Are you truly For the Bold, or will you cower in the face of change?