I had a conversation about M. Carey Thomas last week (or several conversations, which isn’t surprising), about the name change of TGH and the fact that all we do is talk about M Carey Thomas! So I wanted to acknowledge that some people, and I to a certain extent, think that the M. Carey Thomas example is often overused and sometimes seems to be something that people can talk about to seem radical and cool without truly engaging in what it means to be oppressive. But not all conversations about her are like that. And I also think she’s just a perfect example for what I’m thinking!
After reading everything for this week, and also reading through everyone’s posts, my feelings about changing the name of TGH have shifted. As recent as early this semester, I did not know how I felt about the issue. I could no confidently support nor object to the idea that the name of TGH should be changed. Most of the reasons for changing it was because M. Carey Thomas was extremely racist, which I of course don’t like. But a lot of the reasons that I heard about not changing it was that it would erase the memory of racism on our campus and we wouldn’t think about it as much. Which I could also see happening.
However, a couple of weeks ago a friend came up to me and shared an idea that she heard. In an effort to subvert the space, we could have a memorial of sorts to honor the women of color who have made lasting impacts on our campus, or who went off and did great things in the world. Perfect! I thought. Especially because one of this student’s concerns was that if we changed the name of TGH we would lose a lot of funding. Which I think is valid. But going back to Sofi’s question of, who are these memorials for? and the question of, what is an institutions values? I am not sure that we could justify glorifying the oppressive mindset of a woman just because we want another old white woman’s money. Are we glorifying this old white woman’s racism too? Though I still want scholarship money for students, so I’m not fully convinced that that is the most important point for myself.
But to the other point about losing our campus history, Gwendolyn’s post got me thinking. We are arguing that it is important to commemorate this woman because it highlights all the injustices of this campus’ past. But couldn’t we achieve the same thing through commemorating a person who actively fought to change the policies and the structures that M. Carey Thomas put in place? I’m not sure if this is a novel idea but I feel like I haven’t heard it a lot! We can have multiple histories, and the only way to learn about oppression doesn’t have to be through the lens of the oppressor! I am quite distressed that this is the current model that we fall back on. I am also upset that money controls so many of our decisions, but I suppose that could be a whole other post.