What is '#CancelYale'? Here's all you need to know
Over the past few weeks, there have been calls to "cancel" Yale University over its ties to slavery. The calls to rid the University of its name come as several historical figures have been put on trial over past racist controversies. However, some argue that this is just a ploy by right-wing "trolls" to target the liberal institution. Here's all you need to know.
The killing of a Black man, George Floyd, in police custody in the United States, in May, had led to intense nationwide anti-racism protests. The protests have since spread around the world. The protesters have also resorted to vandalizing statues of historical figures with ties to slavery and racism. Among those whose statues have been targeted include Christopher Columbus, Winston Churchill, Edward Colston, etc.
Many have pointed out that Yale University's founder, Elihu Yale, was a slave trader. This is anchored by a controversial portrait of Elihu Yale—also the President of the East India Company's Madras settlement—sitting among a group of British gentlemen next to a dark-complexioned slave with a neck collar. The portrait was once exhibited at the University President's office and has since been shifted.
Calls to "#CancelYale" emerged on social media around three weeks ago after a petition in Wales, United Kingdom, sought to change the name of a pub in Wrexham: 'The Elihu Yale'. Since then, many have suggested changing the name of the Ivy League school. "#CancelYale" has notably been louder among the political right, which has led to allegations that the campaign is ill-intentioned.
People in support of "#CancelYale" have argued that the University was quick to change the name of its Calhoun College—named after former US Vice President and Yale graduate John C Calhoun, who also owned slaves. Others argue that "#CancelYale" is a means to target the liberal institution while distracting people from protests against the removal of Confederate statues still revered in the US.
Yale University President Peter Salovey has rejected calls to change the name of the Ivy League school. Head of Davenport College John Witt—who led the committee that recommended removing John Calhoun's name from a residential college in 2016—also defended Yale.
Meanwhile, speaking to the News, Deen Freelon, an associate professor in the Hussman School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that the political right's objective is to "expose liberal hypocrisy." Yale Law graduate Nathan Robinson tweeted, "Any argument in defense of Yale's name is implicitly an argument in defense of the class system."