Reading today how Princeton University has reached a compromise on Woodrow Wilson’s legacy at this elite institution takes me back a few months to the open letter that the Black Justice League published regarding their demands and how they felt that their freedom of speech as being repressed.
Demanding that marginalized people present their concerns in a way that is most palatable to those who are responsible for addressing their grievances not only reveals a profound lack of historical understanding around the purpose of civil disobedience, but it also maintains the oppressive status quo by placing the burden back on those marginalized to prove themselves worthy of being heard.
When you wonder why there is resentment towards people of color, and why there is a surging anger that results in people like Donald Trump gaining so much support, it is because of radicalized statements like this. You are attending one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, for crying out loud.
While I might have had the grades to get in, I would never have been able to dream of attending Princeton even if I could get past the application process – it simply was not affordable. My children will experience the same reality.
I completely understand that there was a history of racism in this nation. Bigotry and prejudice were responsible for evil and oppression. Those things are true. But the black community is no longer a “marginalized” group. If anything, it receives special attention and privilege that is not available to other groups (not that there should be preference given to any group over others).
But let me get back to the quote. Your voices were not being repressed in this situation because of your race. They were being repressed because you were out of line with your behavior.
We envision a campus in which mutual respect and understanding are fostered along with principles of free speech.
Then start behaving in a way that indicates you deserve respect.
It is clear that Wilson was virulently racist, even by historical standards.
He institutionalized racism. This was at the core of his policies both here at Princeton and as President of the United States.
Wilson discouraged the admission of black students to Princeton, opposed black suffrage, was an ardent KKK apologist, and re-segregated federal offices that had previously been integrated — costing many black families their jobs.
These things about Woodrow Wilson, Princeton University, and America’s past were true before you got there. And they will be true after you leave. I am assuming that you had some level of understanding of American History BEFORE you were accepted to Princeton. Were these things new revelations to you?
If you felt that Woodrow Wilson’s legacy was “spitting in your face,” why the hell did you choose to attend Princeton in the first place? Your behavior is childish and indicates that you are undeserving of the privilege you’ve been granted.
Instead of worrying about how Wilson’s name on a building hurts your feelings, why don’t you worry about making the most of the opportunity you have to go to such an elite institution? Millions of your fellow Americans will never get that same chance.