Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater


baby and bathwater

On to Princeton…..a group of Princeton students participated in demonstrations demanding that Woodrow Wilson’s name be removed from the buildings that bore his name on their campus.  Their reasoning goes something like this; Woodrow Wilson was a racist and for the students to see his name being honored on the physical buildings of their campus was to remind the black students of racism and segregation (which are not honorable), therefore Woodrow Wilson should not be recognized and his name should be removed.  First, yes Woodrow Wilson was indeed a racist, no doubts about it.  He was a southerner, grew up a southerner, and was a product of his environment.  The entire United States in the late 19th early 20th century was a racist, segregated society.  During this time in American history, if a white American was not racist, or if they did not endorse some sense of white racial supremacy, they were in fact EXTRA-ORDINARY in every sense of the word.   There was not only segregation in the south but many northern states in private businesses, public facilities and our government.  If consensus public opinion was not racist, or did not endorse some false sense of white supremacy, then it would have been reflected in the organization of American society in the late 19th early 20th century, but that was not the case.  The unfortunate fact is many, if not most, white Americans during that time in American history would be considered racist.  Woodrow Wilson just happens to be on a public, much grander stage, where it is much easier to identify and document his racist beliefs rather then your everyday “Joe Schmo” white guy from 1906.  So then the question becomes; Do we judge and label Woodrow Wilson as a racist then remove his legacy from the annals of American History?  Do we throw away his honorable political accomplishments such as winning a Nobel Peace prize for establishing the League of Nations and serving as our President during WWI? Do we dismiss Woodrow Wilson because he held views which many if not a majority of white Americans held during that time? Of course not, that is ridiculous.  Our human experience is marked by flaws, inaccuracies, and imperfections.  Should we remove the legacy that is Martin Luther King Jr. because some can make the argument that he objectified women as an adulterer?  Of course not, he was an inspiring charismatic leader that generated a movement that has forever improved our nation.  All people have their imperfections, should we allow their imperfections to blemish what may otherwise be a positive historical legacy? To do so is indeed throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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