As an African American, I find it appalling that student activism has reached a level where we feel the need to alter history to placate disgruntled students. I attended Princeton for the history of its greatness — even in light of the ugly parts of it. Students, after all, are still learning, and at age 18, 19, and even 22 are hardly capable of understanding the nuances of people being neither all good nor all bad, but rather something in between. Yet the May 11 feature on Samuel Stanhope Smith seems to support the idea of students possessing such discernment: that they, though even confused about their own majors, should be able to whimsically change that history.
That’s dangerous, and not befitting such a great institution. Though I support the idea of having a place with an African American focus, I must ask: Isn’t it an even more powerful statement to have that place named after a non-African American Princetonian who fought for equality in potential? After all, Princeton is all about realizing potential; and to have an African American center, department, lounge, or whatever, named after a person who supports the idea of equality in potential for greatness is to grasp exactly the reason I attended the school in the first place.
Smith shows me that even early Princetonians understood that greatness is not limited by color, ethnicity, religion, or gender, which itself is a great idea. Why, then, can’t the Black Justice League people see that also?