Editor's note: Reckonin is interested in all viewpoints about the South today. Therefore we are posting this article by Dr. Plato V. Boston, Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of Diversity at the University of Virginia and Director of that University’s Institute for Reparations.
Enlightened people know that it is an atrocity that the capital of America is named for the racist slaveholder Washington. That name is an almost daily offense to good people around the world. Fortunately, progressive voices in Congress are beginning to pay attention to this problem. Of new names, King City or MLK City seem to have the most support, although there are also supporters of Obama City, Floyd City, and Tubman City who will have their say. Tubman City would be satisfactory for both African-Americans and feminists.
Of course, some of the most backward Republicans who claim they are not racists are already complaining that a changeover will be too expensive.
Along with this change there must be a reconfiguration of the Washington Monument to reflect the true America. It is hard to imagine any more offensive symbol of white privilege. Whether it should be redecorated to reflect black or rainbow sensibilities remains to be decided. Perhaps a redecoration could embody both causes.
A lot is being done to erase America’s evil racist past. The destruction of heinous Confederate symbols is well under way, but much more needs to be done. The memorial to the racist slaveowner Jefferson could be demolished to make place for a new monument to African-American contributions to America.
The North is not immune, but much remains to be done in the South. Virginia has been taking some steps, but that is only a beginning. What could be better than renaming Washington and Lee University for George Floyd as a symbol of repudiation of the flawed American past and the search for enlightened knowledge? And the College of William Mary, instead of being named for two oppressive colonialists, can be named Nat Turner University in honor of the great Virginian who struck one of the first blows against slavery. The Virginia Military Institute, long a bastion of unmitigated evil, should be renamed for President Grant, a great soldier and true friend of African Americans.
Perhaps the greatest need for cleansing is to be found in South Carolina. The college named for the Confederate racist slaveholder Clemson might memorialise instead Denmark Vesey, who was martyred for rebellion against slavery. And the college called The Citadel should be called the Sherman Military Institute after the great commander who liberated that state from oppression.
Of course, we still have a long way to go in cleansing the evil past. Last time I looked there is still a “Calhoun County” in Michigan, as well as many counties, towns and streets in the South carrying that name and other racist designations. And why are the names of notorious racist oppressors of peaceful Hispanic Americans like Houston, Austin, and Jackson still offending?
America geography is studded with names from the languages of Native Americans, often with distorted meanings and spellings---Ohio, Iowa, Minneapolis, Miami, Milwaukee, Omaha, Seattle and countless others. These are clearly the product of white oppression and cultural appropriation of a conquered people. There should be a Presidential commission to decide to what degree these place names should remain as recognition of Native Americans as the original Americans, or should be abolished or changed.
We should all remember that in our struggle against white privilege we are still a long way from declaring “Mission Accomplished.”
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews