Opinion: Yale Must Change Its Name

Sean O’Brien:

“Nothing is known about the boy on the right, who has just finished pouring Madeira (a sweet, fortified wine) into the glasses on the table… the silver collar and padlock around his neck indicate that he is enslaved.”

So begins the curator’s comment for a portrait of Elihu Yale, one of three paintings in Yale University’s collection that depicts a slave attending to Elihu the slavemaster.

Slavery is as inseparable from Elihu as these paintings depict. Such a namesake is a liability for Yale the institution. By that I mean a billion-dollar brand, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, an affiliated college in Singapore, and a huge healthcare network. This “open secret” is a ticking timebomb. It is about to go off.

#CancelYale trended this past week on social media, having started as a trolling of liberal elites by conservative influencers.

One example: “For an institution that prides itself on its so called progressivism, why has Yale not yet distanced itself from its namesake – a notorious slave trader?!”

To Yale’s chagrin, they have a point. It must be difficult to take a cold, hard look in the mirror when your face is covered in blood.

As has been well documented, America’s leading universities profited from slavery and have deep roots in colonialism. Dozens of schools have acknowledged their roots in racism and slavery, long before the current wave of Black Lives Matter protests.