We have been discussing the effort of protesters to strip universities of references and images connected to segregation or slavery, including the names of Framers. Now, a dishwasher has taken it upon himself to smash a stained-glass window at Yale University because it depicted what he considered a racist scene. What is interesting is that, even though Corey Menafee was fired, Yale was already planning to remove the windows as part of a new initiative to remove such images.
Just a Hollywood celebrities and producers recently claimed the right to deface posters of movies with “tired” images, Menafee decided that, if he felt a stained glass window was offensive, he had the unilateral privilege to destroy it with a broomstick.
Menafee, 38, is facing a felony criminal mischief charge and has now apologized but also claims that the property destruction is a form of civil obedience.
The window was one of a series of stained-glass panels depicting various moments from the life of building namesake and former U.S. vice president John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was defender of states rights, including the right to legalize slavery. A recent effort to strip the building of his name failed but Yale has decided to remove the panels.
I disagree with the removal of such historic windows or references. Indeed, I believe it is a constant reminder of not just our acceptance of slavery but the connections of leading institutions like Yale with that immoral period. We should not scrub away history but recognize it and learn from it. Many of the great works and buildings of Europe show scenes of slavery and other evil practices. Preserving such historical artifacts and objects is not an endorsement of the practices but a recognition of human history.
Menafee should face accountability for his crime but Yale should also face the questions about its approach to its own history.
What do you think?