And so it goes, literally.
This week, Amherst College overwhelmingly voted to remove “Lord Jeff” as their mascot after the large majority of students, alums, and staff expressed negative views about it, according to The Boston Globe.
“Amherst College finds itself in a position where a mascot—which, when you think about it, has only one real job, which is to unify—is driving people apart because of what it symbolizes to many in our community,” the trustees of the college said in a statement.
This is but the latest occurrence in an ongoing national trend taking place at many colleges and universities, where the students or the administration have engaged in historical revisionism to ensure that individuals who are representing their institutions adhere to university values.
“It is fair to recognize that historical context may influence, or make us cautious about, judgments concerning Jeffery Amherst the man,” the trustees said in the same statement. “It is equally fair to decide that 18th-century standards should not govern a 21st-century choice of symbol.”
That being said, some have been more successful than others, as tensions remain high nation-wide. One only needs to look at the events that took place at Yale and Mizzou to see the reality of the situation.
Even here at BC we saw some demonstrations take place, and rightly so.
But, this brings forth the question: “Why is this taking place at this time?” The knowledge that the namesake of Amherst University, Lord Jeff Amherst, allegedly caused the spread of smallpox among Native American populations during colonial times has been around for centuries.
Over the past year, there have been protests, talks, tensions, name changes, convictions, and the legalization of gay marriage across the nation. One thing is abundantly clear: the country is fed up with the system in place and is beginning to take action to change it.
Presidential candidates took note, with some fine-tuning their whole campaigns to fit a specific viewpoint and feed off the outrage. As in that recent Sandra Bullock movie, they have made “Crisis” their brand.
The country finds itself in a state of this-but-not-that. Individuals are taking up the opportunity to finally act upon what they see is unjust, not just for their own sake but for those of future generations. In order to deal with the realities of their world, of our world, they are grabbing the bull by the horns to get their point across, although not always in the most appropriate ways.
Their point has been made, however. The fact that an institution such as Amherst even considered the move shows how far the opinion of the public has shifted: racial intolerance will no longer be tolerated, at any level, nor will the glorification of those guilty of it.
To answer the question: “Why here and now?” Because it has to, otherwise, we find ourselves guilty of perpetuating that which we try to eradicate.
Here in Boston, there have been calls to rename Yawkey Way in the Fenway area, as the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey has been accused of racial prejudice, based on his failing to sign Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in 1945, as reported by The Boston Globe.
Harvard Law School is also reconsidering its official seal, as it holds elements of a slaveholding family crest.
Future generations will do one of two things when looking back at this “second civil rights era.” They will either commend this generation for fighting for humanity’s sake, or condemn it for not doing enough.
In this “best of times, worst of times,” as Charles Dickens once said, it is the time to question, but to question prudently. The future of the city, nation, and the world is in our hands—what will we do with it?