In one of the most pathetic, infuriating stories I’ve read in a long time, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison demanded and succeeded in convincing the university’s administration to remove a large rock from the campus. The rock, called the Chamberlin Rock, was placed and named in honor of geologist and former university president Thomas Chamberlin, an expert on glacier deposits, in 1925. It seems the rock is a rare specimen believed to be two billion years old and was transported from Canada to Wisconsin by glaciers.
However, a 1925 newspaper article written about the rock in the Wisconsin State Journal described it using a then popular slang term for large, dark rocks that included the N-word. It was that article that caused such offense and inspired the university’s Black Student Union and others to demand that the rock be removed. One article. Written in 1925. That’s 96 years ago. The university’s investigation of the matter was unable to find any other references to the rock using the same racist slur over the preceding decades. The Atlanta Black Star, a Black-owned online news outlet that reports on Black culture, in their reporting on the matter, wrote that, “The article is the only known instance of the term being used to describe the rock, which was officially named after Chamberlain a year after the article was published.” Nevertheless, that one racist slur referencing the rock written in 1925 was sufficient to cause so much offense that students demanded the rock be removed. So, they removed the rock.
In response to the successful effort to have the rock removed, Juliana Bennett, a senior at Wisconsin who sits on the Madison City Council, said, “This moment is about the students, past and present, that relentlessly advocated for the removal of this racist monument. Now is a moment for all of us BIPOC students to breathe a sigh of relief, to be proud of our endurance, and to begin healing.”
Excuse me, but … What?
First of all, I can’t find anything in articles written about this matter that claim that the rock is regularly referenced by the N-word and, again, the university’s own investigation wasn’t able to find any other references to the rock as such outside of that one article written in 1925. Neither can I find anything that claims that Chamberlin was a racist. So, what exactly makes this rock a “racist monument”?
Second, regarding “students past and present,” how long have the students been demanding that the university remove this rock? The earliest articles I can find on the matter are dated from August, 2020. One year ago. So, it doesn’t seem that Black students at Wisconsin had found anything racist or otherwise offensive about the rock before then.
Healing? Really? A rock that had absolutely no connection, as far as I can tell from reports on the matter, to racism or racist movements, or that represented a monument to racism was removed (at a cost of $50,000 from private donors – who would donate to such an effort? Sheesh!), and people need to be healed over this? Some people were so pained, so traumatized, so devastated, so injured by this rock that they decided was a symbol of racism that they now require healing? To take something that had no connection to racism at all and make of it a symbol of racism so that people require healing, … well, to me that smacks of people looking for something to be angry about so they can feel righteous when they manage to get rid of it. Manufactured offense. Some students at Wisconsin wanted to be able to say they participated in the movement for racial justice, that they made a contribution to the cause. So, someone dug up this article from 1925 and, on the basis of that one article from 96 years ago, decided that this rock was a monument to racism and had to go. Now they get to tell their children about how they valiantly fought for racial justice at UW when they were in college. Pathetic.
If the students at UW want to make a contribution to the advancement of the African-American community, I have some suggestions for issues on which they can focus:
The African-American poverty rate is 18.8%.
Homicide is the fourth leading cause of death for all Black American men, and the leading cause of death for Black men up to the age of 44.
77.3% of children born to Black women are born to single mothers.
37% of single mother families headed by Black women live in poverty.
From an article in The Washington Examiner, “According to U.S. census data, there were 18,871,831 black American citizens in 1960. Since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, abortion has killed an estimated 20 million black babies — more than the entire black population of 1960.”
Consider that none of these problems are going to be solved by politicians in Washington, or even in any state capital. All of these are the result of individual choices, and can be resolved or improved by individual choices. Yes, even the poverty rate. We know that individuals, even those who are born into and grow up in poverty, who make positive choices can improve their lives. The above poverty rate actually represents the lowest rate among African Americans in years. So, millions of African Americans are moving up and out of poverty, and this movement is largely a reflection of personal choices.
Given the above, creating so much noise over a rock that nobody regarded as a symbol of racism prior to a year ago seems the result of one of two things: either a desperate attempt to find anything — literally anything — that can make these students feel better about themselves, or a sign that young African Americans have given up hope that the situation for African Americans in the U. S. can be much improved, so they turn to meaningless gestures to distract them from real issues. I am absolutely convinced that there is an organized social and political effort to keep Black Americans distracted from real issues in order to keep them down and keep them supporting and voting for the “right” people. Congratulations, UW. Racists couldn’t be happier.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.