Feedback: Ibram X. Kendi and Antiracism, Rhett’s Namesake, BU President Harold Case, and More
Ibram X. Kendi and Antiracism
I am thrilled at Ibram X. Kendi’s effort to improve Black American lives in the new Center for Antiracist Research at BU (“This Is the Calling of My Life,” Fall 2020). Perhaps he can find my long-missing photo, like pearls, which I donated to the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground long ago.
I am a white egalitarian whose life was delayed in 1973 when Howard Zinn’s Communist zealots posted a bomb scare outside then CLA (now College of Arts & Sciences). I was an adult veteran at BU on the GI Bill, married, with my wife supporting us until I could graduate. Because of the bomb threat, CLA was locked and I couldn’t graduate until the next fall, when I returned to complete my last course. My wife was not amused.
I can’t donate $1 million to Mr. Kendi’s center, as I am only a “pen”urious writer; but I can donate like pearls. It is a 20″ x 30″ photo I took after we demonstrated at the Commonwealth Armory. I demonstrated there, on Boston Common, and elsewhere against the police, back then the enemies of those of us who believed not just in racial equality, but in all the forms of equality then deemed radical, but now de rigueur in the pantheon of just causes.
Luck to Mr. Kendi in his efforts to help our world progress beyond its Trumps and Nixons and finally secure “Liberty and Justice for All.”
David Carroll (CAS’73)
As a BU alumnus, I was deeply saddened to read of BU’s full-throated embrace of Ibram X. Kendi’s antiracist credo. I have always felt that Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent vision was an achievable goal that, slowly and painfully, was bringing our society to a better place with more equality, a better understanding of the evils of racism, and a goal of treating people as unique individuals rather than judging them by race, gender, religion, etc. Kendi’s antiracism approach seems to say that we are forever stuck in the ills of the past, and must always be defined by the race or ethnic group we are born into. I am a supporter of Black Lives Matter, I acknowledge all the inequality and inherent racism that has existed since our nation’s founding and (despite obvious progress) still exists today, but I refuse to embrace such a negative and angry worldview that pits one group against another.
King (GRS’55, Hon.’59) had it right; progress is slow but the pendulum does swing in the right direction. We can and must reject both the evils of racism and the so-called antiracist approach to solving our very real problems and inequalities.
H. Robb Levinsky (CAS’81)
Congratulations, BU! I was intrigued to read the articles about Ibram X. Kendi and his Center for Antiracist Research. BU has established its wokeness and has finally been vaccinated against the virus of systemic racism.
It surprises me that Boston University, one of whose graduates is the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), didn’t have the moral courage to refuse the donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Start Small initiative. Twitter is one of Silicon Valley’s sponsors of recent and ongoing news censorship, worthy of the former Soviet Union’s news agency Pravda.
By teaching the theory of systemic racism, Dr. Kendi is encouraging his students to place blame for failure not on their own lack of discipline and personal initiative, but on questionable external narratives. As victims of these narratives, individuals are excused from bettering their position in this culture through hard work and personal responsibility.
Isn’t it marvelous that BU has attracted millions of foundation dollars in support of Dr. Kendi’s center?
Congratulations, BU! But to paraphrase Dr. King, “I look for a world where men are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It seems to me that the “national reckoning over racial justice” has more to do with skin color than with character content.
Barbara Fetrow Suhrstedt (CAS’70)
Fort Collins, Colo.
I read the article about Ibram X. Kendi and saw the cover picture. If people want to improve race relations here, we should all make an attempt to converse and become acquainted with the white race if you are Black, and the Black races if you are white. It seems to me that many Blacks avoid white people tenaciously, and so do white people. Talking is a start. Talking to people right on the street or on the bus is good. I also believe that it is not helpful for anyone for whites or people of color to blame whites or northern Europeans for not having something they long for. We all have to struggle sometimes and it is usually better if one does not focus on blaming someone else.
Roger B. Ley (LAW’70)
Why a Trump Tribute?
I cannot imagine why fall 2020’s “In Memoriam” should have included an extended tribute, with photo, to Robert Trump (DGE’68, CAS’72). What exceptional service did he render to Boston University? That he “returned to campus in 2013 for the opening of the New Balance Field” (along with how many others?) appears to have been his crowning achievement.
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. If we are duty-bound not to speak ill of the dead, perhaps we should equally avoid undeserved encomia.
William Politt (MET’82)
P.S. One could claim that surviving 71 years under the successive thumbs of Fred and Donald Trump does make one worthy of special praise.
More on Harold Case
I am a longtime reader of your very fine alumni magazine. I read the letter from Ann Dinsmoor referring to President Harold Case and his efforts to centralize the college’s schools (“Feedback,” Fall 2020). I attended what was then the College of Basic Studies (now College of General Studies), which was the BU school established in 1952 and located next to the Boston Public Library. It was in March 1966 that all students were told we would be returning from spring break to a new location on Commonwealth Avenue. Most of us were greatly disappointed that we would leave what was a wonderful historic structure, with amphitheater-styled observation rooms that had served as class space for students at Harvard Medical School when it moved to Boylston Street in 1883.
I wanted to share these facts with your readers, and, by the way, my educational experience there was very enriching.
Thomas Skouras (CGS’66)
I read the article about renaming Rhett and thought it was interesting and well done (“Is It Time to Retire the Rhett Name?” Fall 2020). I wanted to suggest a small change. The article states, “…Rhett Butler fought to defend the Confederacy and treated Scarlett O’Hara in a way that’s considered abusive today.” I’d argue Butler’s actions were always abusive. In the 1860s violence against women was not openly challenged, but it doesn’t make it any more right.
It’s a subtle change, but in an issue about injustice I think it matters.
Marieke Van Damme (MET’13)
Remembering Travis Roy
With the death of Travis Roy, I am reminded of the exceptional individuals who have played hockey at BU (“Travis Roy, Hockey Player Paralyzed in 1995, Dies at 45,” Fall 2020).
To an incoming freshman in 1963, the 7-16 varsity hockey team was disappointing. But in those days, there was a freshman team that went 21-0. Several were later to have First Team All-America status.
Since 1964, BU has been a hockey powerhouse, winning NCAA Frozen Four national championships and more Beanpot Tournaments than any other school. So many that the Beanpot became known as the “BU tournament.”
When Herb Brooks put together the 1980 Olympic squad, he stocked it with a number of BU standouts. Key among them was team captain Mike Eruzione (Wheelock’77) and goalkeeper Jim Craig (Wheelock’79).
Whenever I watch Miracle, the movie that tells the story of the gold medal win by the US team, I burst with pride. Not just because of the huge upset win over the heavily favored Russians, but because the heart and soul of that team was made up of BU Terriers.
Interesting was the selection of Eruzione as captain. He was not the fastest skater, nor did he have the playmaking ability of others. But Brooks saw something in Eruzione that his team needed; he was a leader with a capital “L.” He had character and as it turned out, he also had the winning goal against the Russians! (You can’t make this stuff up.)
For Travis Roy, it was the first 11 seconds of what was expected to be the beginning of a promising college hockey career and perhaps years in the NHL. Instead, it tragically became a life as a paraplegic in a wheelchair. Who accepts this, moves on, and shows others that you can accept defeat, or treat it as a challenge you will not let destroy you? That was Travis Roy. His hockey ability was eclipsed by his character. He will be remembered as an inspiration and a member of the Boston University community we can all be proud of. His death is a huge loss.
Mike Eruzione and Travis Roy, two Boston University ambassadors. Both have gone on to achieve goals one would never think possible. They have led by example, while teaching us a valuable lesson to never give up.
When you hear accolades about other schools in other sports, remember that BU may not have the biggest, or the fastest, but we have shown we have something more important. We are from a school with athletes like Harry Agganis (Wheelock’54), All-American quarterback, Marine, and Boston Red Sox star, whose life was tragically cut short, but inspired others in his generation. The list goes on and on.
Through these special individuals and so many others, we have reasons to be proud alumni.
Frank Gunsberg (Questrom’67)
Great Barrington, Mass.
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