The Great Purge continues.
2020 should be remembered as the year the office of America emptied its file cabinets and cranked up the document shredder.
We’re shaking the nation’s Etch-A-Sketch, ridding ourselves of the remnants that came before.
Such is the case in western New York, concerning a certain U.S. president.
The University of Buffalo has chosen to remove any reference to President Millard Fillmore, in spite of the fact that POTUS 13 helped found the school.
Additionally, he served as its first chancellor, holding the position from 1846 ’til his death in 1874.
In a news release Monday, officials explained the decision “aligns with the university’s commitment to fight systemic racism and create a welcoming environment for all.”
The welcoming part aside, how does removing a dead guy’s name from something lessen racism embedded in a system?
Oh, wait: As per UB’s News Center, Millard signed The Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act.
History.com recaps the law:
Part of Henry Clay’s famed Compromise of 1850—a group of bills that helped quiet early calls for Southern secession—this new law forcibly compelled citizens to assist in the capture of runaways. It also denied enslaved people the right to a jury trial and increased the penalty for interfering with the rendition process to $1,000 and six months in jail.
In order to ensure the statute was enforced, the 1850 law also placed control of individual cases in the hands of federal commissioners. These agents were paid more for returning a suspected runaway than for freeing them, leading many to argue the law was biased in favor of Southern slaveholders.
That sounds horrible, as does the institution of slavery.
In light of the above, again I ask: How does removing a dead guy’s name from something lessen racism embedded in a system?
Here’s more from the press release:
Millard Fillmore Academic Center, which houses academic departments, student residences and other services, and is part of the Ellicott Complex, will be known as Academic Center until a new name is determined.
[Fillmore’s] presidency, from 1850-53, has been widely criticized for his support of The Compromise of 1850… UB recognizes this remains a deeply hurtful decision, especially for African Americans..
Furthermore, the school promised its yearly ceremony in Millard’s honor was never a tip of the hat to things he believed:
Previous recognitions of Fillmore by UB, including an annual gravesite ceremony the university stopped co-sponsoring in 2019, were based on his role at the university, not an endorsement of his policies or legacy as president.
UB previously ran a continuing education program called Millard Fillmore College. That program, which was folded into existing programs two years ago, no longer exists.
Also being scrubbed from campus: 32-year council member and fourth chancellor James O. Putnam, who “held and openly expressed racist views;” and congressman/U.S. Secretary of War Peter B. Porter, who “owned five enslaved African Americans.”
#UBuffalo will remove the names Millard Fillmore, James O. Putnam and Peter B. Porter from four locations at UB, a decision that aligns with the university’s commitment to fight systemic racism and create a welcoming environment for all. ➡️ https://t.co/6ZbbzB7G3d pic.twitter.com/fxPH2SWCp0
— UBuffalo (@UBuffalo) August 3, 2020
Of course, the school should only honor those it believes are deserving.
As for “systemic racism,” that’s a term being repeatedly referenced, it seems, with rarely if ever any specific example given. What wheels in the machine are oppressing those who aren’t white? If we can’t name the problems, we can’t fix them.
I look forward to a pinpointing of America’s effective devilry, so we can assault Satan together.
In the meantime, 21st century administrators are deleting men from the 19th.
I wonder what fixers in 2220 will think of them.
In the official statement, President Satish K. Tripathi made clear — there’s no erasing of history here:
“As we consider some of these symbols, we have no intention of erasing our history. However, we can purposefully determine whom we want to honor in this way.”
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