This past June, a memorial to the founder of the Washington Redskins was removed from the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C. A historical landmark, RFK Stadium was originally home to the Redskins football team and also used by the Washington Nationals baseball team when they had first become a team.
The memorial, which honored George Preston Marshall, the founder and former owner of the Redskins, was removed because of Marshall’s terrible behavior in the past. He was a segregationist who refused to hire African American players and even stipulatedyy in his will that none of his assets should go to schools that were not all white. Moreover, he decided upon the team’s name, Redskins, which is discriminatory to Native Americans.
Coincidentally, around the same time, the Minnesota Twins baseball team removed a statue of their former owner, Calvin Griffith, from their ballpark. In a statement, the team said, “[w]e cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made … ” Griffith thought Minnesota was a great place because “you’ve got good, hard-working, white people here.” He also said, “I’ll tell you why [the team] came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here.”
In the current racial equality movement, the commotion of reexamining history is reaching every corner of the U.S. On the streets and in college campuses, many buildings are being renamed and monuments are being removed. Because of what they represent, memorials and symbols are being removed — from statues of Southern leaders who fought for slavery during the Civil War, to racist symbols like the Confederate flag, and even statues of former presidents who were white supremacists. Germany has no monument to Hitler, only places to commemorate the victims of Nazis, why do we need statues of racists? That’s the question that those confronting the validity of the destruction of history and supporting the removal of the statues are asking.
So Princeton University severed ties with one of its past presidents, former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Los Angeles is considering changing the name of the John Wayne Airport, the American Museum of Natural History will remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt. People leave traces wherever they go, and now their wrong words and behavior are readily found with an internet search. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, equal rights activists are finding their targets quickly on social media, gradually removing the dark stains on this era.
But where is the line drawn?
After the legendary and well-loved Los Angeles Dodgers sportscaster Vin Scully expressed his anger at football players kneeling in protest three years ago; hsome labeled him a racist. Now the media is even calling for fans to condemn him, despite his undoubted support for African American players over his more than 60 years of sportscasting. Those in this “cancel culture” throw around controversial labels to encourage people to withdraw support. This is the biggest impediment to the current social movement.
Judging by today’s standards, Indian sage Mahatma Gandhi might have been a racist full of prejudice. Former President of National Taiwan University, Fu Ssu-nien seemingly did not do enough for democracy on campus. One of the Founding Fathers of America, George Washington, had a huge family business that is tainted by his role in slavery. Each era has its own context, and everyone grows up in a different environment. Judging the past from a single point of view is not only unfair, but dangerous: it leads people to easily slip into a frenzy of a cultural revolution, turning everything into a fight.
In an interview with The Washington Post, the granddaughter of the Redskins’ former owner surprisingly said she felt his memorial should’ve been taken down and the Redskins name should be immediately changed. Furthermore, regardless of the prejudiced things he recorded in his will, scholarships provided by the family foundation should be given equally to recipients of all races. Just like the Marshall family, the most important thing for society after the dust settles is the progress made by each generation. After all, the most difficult thing to remove is the prejudice and bias in everyone’s heart.
The author is a sports writer.