Sunday, June 28, 2020

Will his racism remove Wilson's name from DC institute Walker chairs?

You may remember that Trump threw Walker a bone - membership on the board of the Wilson Center for International Scholars.

It's a think tank within the Smithsonian Institution; Walker recently became the Center's board chairman, according to a Center news release.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg 

The release said this is the Center mission:
The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.
But Wilson's racism, as explained by the President of Princeton University, is why that school has taken Wilson's name off its prestigious policy center there, according to its current president: 
For decades, the university has celebrated Wilson’s record of public service and his achievements.
Wilson was also a racist. He discouraged black applicants from applying to Princeton. While president of the United States, Wilson segregated the previously integrated federal civil service, thereby moving the United States backward in its quest for racial justice and contributing to the systemic racism that continues to damage black lives and our country today. 
It looks like the Wilson Center is already feeling the pressure, having issued a statement Sunday acknowledging Wilson's racism:
The Wilson Center was chartered by Congress in 1968 as the official memorial to President Wilson. The namesake of our institution – while a visionary in international affairs – held racist views and implemented racist policies as President of Princeton University and as President of this country.
As recently as our nation’s marking of Juneteenth this year, we have acknowledged this aspect of Wilson’s legacy. In February of this year, the Wilson Center’s Hubert H. Humphrey Lecture was given by the former Provost of Northwestern University, Dr. Johnathan Holloway, who examined President Wilson’s legacy through a critical racial lens. Our diverse, international team of scholars will continue to grapple with these issues with clear eyes, open hearts, and an unwavering commitment to the truth.
We know this is not the end of the discussion, but a new opportunity to wrestle with our history and chart a better way forward. We will continue to serve Congress and the American people as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for the policy community. 
So that's it? "...this is not the end of the discussion, but a new opportunity to wrestle with our history and chart a better way forward."

For God's sake, Wilson an unabashed racist who was a vocal defender of the Ku Klux Klan, according to this report in Vox:
For his part, Wilson lent The Birth of a Nation his approval by screening it at the White House and reportedly telling Griffith that it could  "teach history with lightning."
Elsewhere...Wilson attacked Reconstruction on the grounds that "the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded."  
He was strongly against black suffrage: "It was a menace to society itself that the negroes should thus of a sudden be set free and left without tutelage or restraint." He praised those freed slaves who "stayed very quietly by their old masters and gave no trouble" but bemoaned that they were the exception, the being "vagrants, looking for pleasure and gratuitous fortune" who inevitably "turned thieves or importunate beggars. The tasks of ordinary labor stood untouched; the idlers grew insolent; dangerous nights went anxiously by, for fear of riot and incendiary fire."
At the end of Reconstruction, "Negro rule under unscrupulous adventurers had been finally put an end to in the South, and the natural, inevitable ascendancy of the whites, the responsible class, established." In a 1881 article that went unpublished, Wilson defended the South's suppression of black voters, saying that they were being denied the vote not because their skin was dark but because their minds were dark (yes, really)
Given those facts and admissions, why hang on to the name?

If Princeton can find a better name for the former Wilson policy school on its campus, can't the Center find a more fitting and less insulting name for a government-chartered study center that conducts "relevant and timely research address the critical and current and emerging challenges confronting the United States...?"

Like, say, 400 years of systemic racism? Fundamental US inequality? Repetitive violence against African-American citizens by law enforcement under color of law? And continuing voter suppression aimed at minority election rolls, neighborhoods, and polling places? 

And while it wouldn't be Walker's decision, I wonder what tune Walker will sing about it, given a catalogue that includes plenty of voting suppression and multiple dog-whistles.

And, by the way, Walker had been bashing the Democratic Party's segregationist figures who were dominant decades ago before Republicans like Southern Strategy Nixon and Strom Thurmond and Steve King others took over that role.

I wonder if Walker will put his own association with Wilson into the Twitter discussion he's been recently stirring up:

The Hill

Embedded video
WI Gov. @ScottWalker: "Joe Biden and his party want people to ignore the history of their party... a party that's filled with racists."

No comments: