Feedback: Terriers and the Priesthood; More Thoughts on Ibram X. Kendi; Alum George Wein Remembered; and More
Campus to Clergy
God bless our holy priests! When I first learned that Bostonia published “Sacred Calling” (Fall 2021), an article about five BU alums becoming Catholic priests since 2011, as a Catholic, I held my breath. Much writing about priests these days takes the opportunity to bash the priesthood in particular and the Catholic Church in general.
To my surprise, relief, and satisfaction, Rich Barlow’s article—featuring a few alums, their paths to the priesthood, BU’s robust campus ministry program, and a few of the recent challenges in the Catholic Church—was an interesting read that was overall balanced. The Catholic Church can indeed be a tremendous force for good. May our Lord bless these five BU alum priests, and all holy priests. Deo gratias! (Thanks be to God!) for Bostonia publishing such an article.
Doug Grane (CAS’90)
Doug Grane is the author of Against the Grain: Heroic Catholics Through the Centuries (Defiance Press & Publishing, 2021).
More on Ibram X. Kendi
I felt compelled to write by the irony of seeing both Anthony Santoro’s “screed” (intentional word choice!) against the thinking and scholarship of Ibram Kendi (Feedback, Fall 2021) in the same issue as the announcement of Dr. Kendi’s receipt of a MacArthur Genius Grant. While one might disagree with Dr. Kendi’s thesis that dismantling racism requires intentional antiracism, labeling his writing as anything but insightful, well-reasoned, and an important contribution to conversations about race in the US seems disingenuous at best.
I’d suggest that a key role of a university is to present new approaches that stimulate discussion and solution-building for our society’s most significant challenges—chief among these being historic, systemic racism. Giving Dr. Kendi’s views a home at BU is, in my opinion, particularly noteworthy given the city’s checkered history of race relations. And so, rather than upbraid the University for featuring Dr. Kendi’s work, I for one applaud BU for creating this center and creating space for this dialogue. This center, combined with other University actions (e.g., the hiring of Dr. Angela Onwuachi-Willig as dean of the School of Law), gives this alum some hope that the University is looking to lead by its actions as much as by its statements.
Scott Cotenoff (LAW’87)
Walnut Creek, Calif.
In his letter (Fall 2021), Anthony Santoro (DGE’69, CAS’71) castigates Ibram X. Kendi’s antiracist beliefs, and BU’s embrace of him. He cites revered alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) and his 1963 March on Washington speech’s oft-repeated phrase of his dream that his children will be judged not by skin color, but by content of character. He then accuses Dr. Kendi of “turning King’s dream upside down.”
I live near Jacksonville, Fla., and watching local, state, and national politicians, almost all white and conservative, sanctimoniously quote, markedly out of context, only that “surgically excised” phrase during MLK Day commemoration ceremonies aroused maddeningly irksome feelings. By distilling the entirety of King and his speech down to dreamy words of skin color and character, those politicians, for expedient political benefit, and perhaps Mr. Santoro, and others, hopefully naively, insult King, his memory, and legacy. They craft a more embraceable “bleached” narrative of King, where his charge of judgment by character rather than skin color, and the burden (as well as concessions) of fulfilling the “dream” are aimed predominantly at Black people; white people afforded the presumption of tacitly endorsing it. Daring to use a denigrated “woke” term, this narrative describes the cultural appropriation of Martin Luther King by those parroting his hopeful words.
King was a complicated man; I can imagine him assuming a thoughtful, considered view, though not unqualified embrace of Critical Race Theory, and working with Dr. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research to realize accessible common ground. King’s own words from that 1963 speech (its purpose to impart momentum to John F. Kennedy’s administration’s push for a strong civil rights bill), and so often conveniently overlooked, bear this out: in just the second paragraph, after acknowledging Lincoln’s momentous Emancipation Proclamation as a “great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves,” he laments that “100 years later, the Negro is still not free…still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”; “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity”; “the Negro is still languished in the corners of American Society and finds himself in exile in his own land.” He sternly declares, with “the fierce urgency of now”: “And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.”
King spoke of (1963) America defaulting on its universal promise of life, liberty, and happiness to Black people. He warned, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility (presaging the contemporary “No justice, no peace” chant) in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights”; further warning of “whirlwinds of revolt…until the bright day of justice emerges,” and presciently that, “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.” He concluded with eloquent, spiritually infused verses of hope for the country, especially the South, and his wishful dream of brotherhood and freedom; but also, of profound faith that America would (eventually) fulfill his dream.
Strong, forceful words, conveniently omitted in favor of the more embraceable, and culturally appropriated Martin Luther King’s wistful dream of content of character eclipsing color of skin.
Michael E. Miller
BU School of Medicine clinical assistant professor (retired)
Ponte Vedra, Fla.
As an alumnus, I believe wholeheartedly with those expressing deep concerns about the University’s “full-throated embrace” of Dr. Ibram Kendi’s “antiracist” beliefs. Put me firmly in the camp of those who embrace our very own Dr. King’s “content of character” view of the issue, as opposed to the divisive and angry worldview posed by Dr. Kendi. This is not the light driving out the darkness, as suggested by Dr. King. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Count me among those who feel that BU needs to re-examine its position supporting further division. In fact, I have withheld donations until such time [that] the University approaches the issues of race relations in a manner consistent with Dr. King and those of us who feel that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
James Sartell (MET’10)
As a former graduate of BU, I am surprised that with all the University’s focus on “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” why you would hire the likes of Ibram X. Kendi to take up the “charade” of addressing so-called US social and racial injustices without also establishing an equitable center and individual to address all of the amazing social and racial justice the US has achieved. Since Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), this amazing country has passed many laws that have allowed all people to excel. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are historical, and our founders were able to establish the most amazing nation in the world for all citizens to achieve their dreams and be successful.
Peter Parsons (COM’65)
It concerns me that BU’s Professor Ibram X. Kendi is collaborating with the Boston Globe to create a new online publication, The Emancipator, styled after William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator of the 19th century (“BU Center for Antiracist Research Teams with the Boston Globe to Launch The Emancipator,” Summer 2021).
Professor Kendi stated in his book How to Be an Antiracist that, “The remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination, the remedy for present discrimination is future discrimination.” How Orwellian is that?
Is The Emancipator really going to be about emancipation or is it going to be promoting race warfare, i.e., Black against white? History is replete with evidence that every race has abused every other race. There is no skin color that confers sainthood.
Contrary to Professor Kendi’s critical race theory, wherein people are judged collectively, as members of racial groups, we should instead judge all people as individuals and treat them fairly. Skin color is no basis for determining the worth of a person’s character.
Thomas Stahl (LAW’82)
Your celebration of Ibram Kendi’s winning a MacArthur “Genius Grant” simply shows how out of touch BU and the MacArthur Foundation are. Don’t you know about parents across the country protesting and rejecting the hateful ideology of Critical Race Theory (CRT)?
Even Black parents are angry about the poisoning of their children’s minds with such lies as America is endemically racist, slavery cast a stain on our nation that can never be removed, whites are privileged oppressors and Blacks are oppressed victims, our founders were white supremacists, etc. Does BU believe that these teachings, which produce hatred of America and of whites, is good for our country?
I strongly agree with Anthony Santoro, in his letter in the fall 2021 edition of Bostonia: “Is such divisiveness really what BU wants to support? BU needs to strongly conduct a thorough examination of its position promoting Dr. Kendi’s ‘antiracism’ program.’”
Martin Zukoff (CAS’57, Questrom’64)
Did our President Brown say, “This is putting us on the right side of history” (“Boston University to Divest from Fossil Fuel Industry,” Fall 2021)? As opposed to the left side of history? Bad jokes aside, what does the “right side of history” mean anyway? No one really believes that they are on the wrong side of history. The term has lost all meaning except as a dog whistle to your opponents that your position is now temporarily on top and you are morally superior to your opponents. So, President Brown, as BU divests from fossil fuel, is BU ready to retrain oil field workers with onsite teaching, reduced tuition, or outright full scholarships by 2040?
In closing, let’s put the “right side of history” down the slippery slope of relativism into the dust bin of history!
Joe D. Marlow (Wheelock’78)
Remembering George Wein
Sorry to read about the passing of George Wein (CAS’50, Hon.’15) (“George Wein, Founder of Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, Dies at 95,” Fall 2021). I remember he brought a lot of excitement to the BU campus in the early ’50s. I attended General College and graduated in 1953 from the School of Education (now BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development). Storyville was then the place to go for fun and good times. I joined the army and served 30 years, always remembering a great four years at BU.
James C. Greenquist (Wheelock’53) (Col., Ret., US Army)
I read with interest the article about Drew Weissman’s fortunate meeting with Katalin Karikò by a copier machine (“The Chance Encounter That Led to a Breakthrough Technology—That Led to Lifesaving Vaccines and World Acclaim for Alum Drew Weissman,” Fall 2021). It is clear the history of scientific discovery is replete with chance discoveries. Could it be these events signify something deeper? Carl Jung wrote in depth about synchronicity, and maybe we are policing this as in shunting amazing to chance because life in general is creating for us all this easy phrase “just a coincidence.”
What if one person every single day for years was able to record with documentation an ongoing connective story involving walking constantly into the “amaze” of this? I am and I keep a running record. I am following a language-based story that is utterly astounding. These hits are difficult to absorb but true as proof exists.
I have two graduate degrees from Boston University and I am married to a prominent molecular biologist. Not only does he know this is happening but he is often responsible for leading me into the “music” of this astounding connectivity. A true weave of stories like none other!
The implications of “chance” are so deep and I believe, given my ongoing diary, you cannot take God, aka Love, whatever name you give this, out of the equation.
Ruth Housman (Wheelock’69, SSW’82)
Marshfield Hills, Mass.
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