I was disheartened to read the commentaries regarding systemic racism in the PAW Inbox in the November issue. Some opinions from older alumni indicated to me not only that there is a lack of understanding of the issue of systemic racism itself, but that some of these alumni continue to hold racist opinions that they do not know are racist. Embedded racist norms are the definition of institutionalized or systemic racism. The fact that they would write these letters is proof enough that there is still a problem within the larger Princeton community.
President Eisgruber ’83’s discussion of systemic racism is all too important given this lack of understanding. Defending the legacies of long-dead racists, no matter how nuanced the argument, does nothing to advance the University’s goals and only seeks to disclude members of the Princeton community by claiming that Woodrow Wilson’s achievements were somehow greater than the lives of Black people — and people of color everywhere.
Symbols are important because they are representative of our beliefs. I commend the University on its continued work toward inclusion and diversity. Commentary from some of the same alumni reveals that our community continues to struggle with interwoven oppressive beliefs.
On that note, one alumnus wrote that the University should change its mascot to a dove or a chicken, due to their “feminine nature” being more appropriately symbolic of the University’s current tack toward systemic racism. As long as we’re making pejorative analogies, let’s note that such alumni are absolute fossils.