The Santa Clara
May 2, 2019
More and more, our national discourse seeks to use labels to discredit a speaker rather than to engage the facts and reason. These ad hominem arguments are simple and sexy, and their appeal has skyrocketed in an era were arguments must be condensed into 280 character tweets. Rather than confront ideas on their merit, people seek to find a mistake or an outdated view as grounds to censor their opponents. Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” highlights this struggle.
Popular in the 1930s, southern singer Kate Smith held inexcusable and racist views. Even through some of her music, this blatant racism can be found. Smith is a flawed woman, but does this mean we should forget and replace her rendition of “God Bless America?” For years it played before both the Yankees and the Flyers until it was recently dropped. The song itself is devoid of her repugnant views, and serves as a wholesome tradition to fans across many sports. While tradition alone is not enough to protect the song, it serves as some of the building blocks for our shared cultural experience. Should we chip away at the foundation, the entirety may crumble. This situation provoked a larger question—does a mistake forsake a body of work?
While it may be tempting to remove those with a checkered past from the historical records, doing so is a slippery slope. Martin Luther King Jr., an undisputed champion of civil liberties, was chronically unfaithful to his wife. Henry Ford, the creator of Ford Automobile and pioneer of the assembly line, was shamefully antisemitic. Unfortunately, the list continues. But should we treat everyone by the standard Smith faced, a tragic amount of our culture and tradition will be lost to the ages. Furthermore, it is senseless to pursue this path. By separating the person from their work, we can save much of our historical record without embracing outdated ideas.
Santa Clara itself serves as a poster child for the separation of ideas and actions from their actor. As many know, the treatment of Native American communities by the Catholic Church and many other groups in American history is disappointing. Mistakes were made and the repercussions for these incidents are still felt today in Native American communities. As a mission, Santa Clara contributed to this difficult history. But should we leave Santa Clara in the past too?
Obviously not. Santa Clara has done wonderful things for the community and continues to do great work. A mistake in the past should not warrant the death of the school today. Shutting down the university to ease past wrongdoing serves none, other than appeasing the Twitter mob whose sights will quickly find a new victim.
In our community at Santa Clara, we should use these past wrongdoings as learning opportunities. We should take a moment to remember mistakes mankind has made to ensure we do not repeat them in the future. Let us condemn hate and leave it in the past. But in the process, we should not forget our tradition and culture through overly broad censorship.
Jake Souleyrette is a sophomore finance major.