The University of Cape Town is a beautiful campus, with a great reputation for academic excellence, and it has good pillars and statues as well. Statues and reputations go together.
At the center of that amazing picture is a statue of Cecil Rhodes, who is seen above, dreaming of a white empire over Africa.
In 2009, protesters annotated his dream:
At the University of Texas, the official slogan is “What Starts Here Changes the World,” but the one I like better is “The eyes of Texas are upon you.” When I walk out my office, if I turn to my left, I can see “The Tower” where the administrators of this university survey the campus; if I turn to my right, I can see the Texas state capitol building.
These towers overshadow the campus, which has a great reputation and good pillars and statues as well.
Here are some pillars at UT:
In the lovely green space between them–at UT, a university with a great reputation for academic excellence–if you walk from the capitol to the tower, you’ll see statues of people who fought a war to keep black people as slaves in America, on either side of you. You will see generals to your left and confederate statesmen to your left. You’ll pass a pretty fountain, and you might see the following inscription on a nice piece of white marble:
“To the men and women of the Confederacy who fought with valor and suffered with fortitude that states rights be maintained.”
I took a picture of it once, which I can’t find now. But I was pretty startled to see it.
I shouldn’t have been. They’re all over the campus. Here is Jefferson Davis, for instance, who committed treason like crazy:
“Dunces of Confederacy,” in 2007:
For this year, as during recent ones, there are calls for the university to rid itself of these embarrassing nods to the Old South. This spring the controversy even spilled over to that citadel of reason, the Texas House of Representatives. CNN devoted some airtime to it, and for a few moments it became a national story. But it is here, on the campus of UT, where the issue will be resolved—or not.
The lightning rod of the statues, the rock star of opprobrium, is Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. Before assuming that office, Davis was a colonel in the U.S. Army and the Secretary of War of the United States. One of the most colorful things Davis did, which is not mentioned on the statue, was to introduce camels into West Texas, on the theory that one desert is as good as another in the utilization of eco-correct animals. (The experiment failed; Texans in those days would not walk a mile for a camel.)
Another controversial statue is that of Robert E. Lee, who, following the Civil War, became the president of George Washington College. Before the war, Lee, along with Davis and Johnston, fought in the Mexican War, and he also served as the superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. But Lee was the soul of the Confederacy, even though he freed his own slaves five years after inheriting them and even though he expressed opposition to slavery, in a letter to his wife, five years before the Civil War. No matter: According to the critics, Lee, Davis, Johnston, and John H. Reagan must go.
John H. who? I certainly didn’t know until I read his inscription. Reagan was the postmaster general of the Confederate States, and after the war he publicly called for Texans to renounce both slavery and secession. He was also the first chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas. If that doesn’t set your blood to boiling, I don’t know what does.
But they always clean it up.
At UCT, this latest round of defacement was sparked by Chumani Maxwele’s “poo protest”:
Last night, the University of Cape Town took down this statue of Cecil Rhodes:
The CEO of a think-tank on race relations (no, really), Frans Cronje, suggested that
UCT’s reputation will take a step downwards after events of tonight. Can it recover or is it doomed to become Cape Town’s ‘bush college’?
In South Africa, the iconoclasm seems to be spreading. A statue of Louis Botha in front of the Parliament building:
At the University of KwaZulu-Natal:
Bush colleges! I fear that the University of Texas is doomed to a similar sad fate.