What’s In A Name: Stupidity and Safe Spaces
Names are important. I would know, as I’m an even more shallow name rater than that asshole in all those Pokemon games who wouldn’t let you change the names of your friends’ little monsters. I’ll swipe left on Tinder if your parents put an extra consonant that doesn’t belong. Names can even have meaning – some so desperate to prove as much that they name their kids words like “Joy,” or “Justice,” or “Blue” and “Ivy” combined for extra credit. But we’re about to cross a line – as detailed in this half-baked piece that clamors for the change of name for a campus hall.
Apparently Barrows Hall – the eight story melted ice cream sandwich that serves as a sweat incubator during the early Fall – was named after some guy who talked shit about Black and Brown people. And people want to rename the building that bears his brand – a full 99 years after it was built. Those who want to “decolonize Barrows Hall” say that it’s upsetting to “be in a building named after this person.”
This is on the order of stupidity of those Emory kids who were “in pain” after seeing the word Trump carved into their university’s campus… in the form of chalk. It’s one order stupider than those putting genuine effort into changing the text of laws so that the word “woman” reads “womxn” so it doesn’t have that evil word “man” inside of it anymore. Not only does it monumentally waste their time (yes, it’s worthy of building a monument just so we can appreciate how magnanimous they are with their time), but it squanders the time of people who have to bother responding to this shit, and takes away from the actual issue at hand. These attitudes just validate the actually true part of the perceptions that every older generation has of millennials – trigger warning-heavy, safe space-laden and overall soft.
This applies to the whole initiative of renaming things originally attributed to old white guys – these people must have an aneurysm every time they step inside a presidential museum. Does their wallet burn a hole through their butt pocket when they remember that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves? Do the temples of conservatives go up in flames when they think how long it took Ronald Reagan to acknowledge that AIDS existed? Do women’s wombs wither when wondering why Fitzgerald Grant slept with so many women after divorcing his wife and breaking up with his mistress? (wait, that was Scandal). You can find plenty of things to be pissed off about if you look hard enough. It’s likely that every prominent male leader of that time – from Robert Sproul to Benjamin Wheeler said something glaringly sexist. and the only reason they aren’t in the same breadth of controversy is because D’Angelo Russell wasn’t there to record it (Which is, by the way, totally unequivocally a bigger deal than the 30-year-old in the video cheating on his fiancée. Also, fiancée is another word that contains the man-associated ‘fiancé’ inside it – I’m on #teamfiancxé).
“But…but…” you stammer, “…everyone had slaves back then. It was part of the culture. You can’t put that on them.” Egg-fucking-zactly. Let’s not exaggerate the inner goodness that all of us modern-age kids have to the point where we would have been a beacon of righteousness in any era. Let’s remember that had we been born into a different family, a different country, a different political environment today, we might have different opinions, ones that we in our current minds consider to be ‘wrong.’ Now extrapolate that to a hundred years ago.
The reason that we have history is to learn from it – or at least that’s the bullshit that my middle-school history teacher told me on the first day of class. So let’s not try to scrub the annals clean of the people that are heavily intertwined with the shaping of the campus because we’re picking at their every word. You notice how there’s no one in the world named Adolf anymore? It’s because Hitler killed off that name in addition to the millions of people he put in the morgue – but we’re not destroying the paintings that came out of Nazi Germany because they depict content that we’re uncomfortable with. Yes, let’s hold them accountable for their outdated opinions by displaying information on the building about his views and why the campus community disagrees with them (still an unnecessary expense for a university slowly bleeding out, but slightly more defensible of a response). No, it’s not the same as naming a new building after him – let’s not make the mistake of applying the standards of today to the leaders of days past. Sure, you might consider a namesake an undue honor, but no one is encouraged to think like him, or think higher of him because Barrows Hall is a campus edifice.
But of course, my opinions are invalid because I’m not Black and I’m not Filipino. Regardless of whether I agree that a colonialist attitude is harmful, and that if someone said that stuff today, I’d mentally pee in their pillowcase. Because I’m not one of these minorities disenfranchised by the existence of a name written in fading bronze letters across a slab of concrete, it doesn’t matter what I think.
Barrows has been judged by history just the same as we’ll be one day, and hopefully our work is meaningful enough for history to take note. Enjoy your safe space – I’ll be sure to send you a postcard from the real world.