It is deeply upsetting that it has taken a tragedy such as the shooting in Charleston to initiate the removal of symbols of white supremacy from public spaces. But public displays of the Confederate Flag throughout the South are finally in peril. Multinational corporations such as Amazon, eBay, Sears, and Walmart have ceased selling merchandise featuring the flag. The Confederate flag, however, is not the only symbol of white supremacy to confront. The monumental task of eliminating the vestiges of racism must include all monuments and symbols dedicated to people and institutions that fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy.
We thus respectfully request that Yale University change the name of Calhoun College. John C. Calhoun, for whom the college is named, was respected during his time as an extraordinary American statesman. But he was also one of the most prolific defenders of slavery and white supremacy in American history. At a time when many of his southern colleagues viewed slavery as a necessary evil, Calhoun infamously defended the institution as “a positive good.” His legacy is built on his vociferous defense of a state’s right to enslave blacks. And during his tenure in Washington, he sharpened racist rhetoric, bolstered the political clout of slaveowners, and drove the nation irreversibly toward dissolution and war. Most pertinently, he was a proud champion of the view that blacks were not equal, could never be equal, and would always be subservient to whites.
Today, Yale honors John C. Calhoun with a beautifully renovated college on the corner of Elm and College Street, which its own website refers to as “truly the best residential college at Yale.” Every day, undergraduates, graduate students, and New Haven residents who pass by see Calhoun’s name, emboldened beneath the Yale insignia. It has previously been suggested that the name be changed from Calhoun College to Calhoun-Bouchet College, in honor of Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to attend Yale College. We adamantly believe, however, that Calhoun’s name must be removed entirely.
Seeing the world through other people’s eyes is a necessary condition for social progress. Respect for history in the eyes of some is the tolerance of white supremacy in the eyes of others. Like the official display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, Calhoun College represents an indifference to centuries of pain and suffering among the black population. It conveys disrespect toward black perspectives, and serves a barrier toward racial inclusiveness. Calhoun College will always preclude minority students from feeling truly at home at Yale.
Changing the name of Calhoun College is only one step of many in the continuing battle to achieve racial equality and racial justice here at Yale, but it is an important and symbolic one. We respectfully request this change."
To see the list of signatories, use this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XIsgJjSddobqQZSdW_72q5m4A63pWYe-6H16StE-2D8/edit?usp=sharing
(Please note that signatures are updated periodically so it may take some time for yours to appear.)