A rose by any other name

What’s your opinion concerning renaming Tillman Hall?

Does it matter that much? Pitchfork Ben Tillman is dead. My life won’t be affected either way. But if the name is changed because he was a racist, then we must consider all the other men for 6-25 Page 4A.inddwhom things are named who were undoubtedly racists.

Thomas Green Clemson was a slave owner. Change the name of the town. John C. Calhoun was a racist. Remove his name from any building or town named in his honor.

George Washington was a slave owner. Should we burn down Mt. Vernon? He did do some other things that had value. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and fathered a number of children with his slave, Sally Hemings, who was also the half-sister of his wife. Should we remove his name from the Jefferson Memorial and delete his writings from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?

Andrew Pickens was a slave owner who thought he’d die before his wife did. He intended to give his slaves their freedom when his wife, Rebecca, died. However, she died before he did, and his slaves remained slaves until his death, when they were sold down the river.

Of course, he did valiantly fight the British and helped win the American Revolution. Should we change the name of the county?

Ours is not the first country to have dark shadows in its past. As soon as the hunter-gatherers began cultivating the land and produced enough food to have a surplus, slavery became the norm.

Ancient civilizations would enslave those they conquered, keeping those with valuable skills alive and killing the rest.

Slavery is still a fact of life in other parts of the world. And race doesn’t always play a part in the equation.

Racism is a terrible part of our history. But it was a very real part, and there are still racists among us. They may not be as vocal, but they are still there. Centuries of injustice do not disappear in 50 years.

At some point we have to realize history cannot be rewritten. We only have the present and the future, where we can change attitudes and conditions to make our world a better place for everyone.

It would be wonderful if changing the name on a building would wipe out generations of injustice. But it will not. Instead of spending so much time and energy on this particular matter, let’s do something about social injustice today and eliminate it from our futures.

If Ben Tillman walked into the room today, I probably couldn’t tolerate five minutes of conversation with him. He was a narrow, ignorant and arrogant man with flawed character and brutal practices. Even so, there were one or two positive attributes mixed in with all the nasty.

No matter. He’s dead. It is to be hoped that his opinions about people who differed from him in race, gender, social position, political views and religion will one day be as dead as he is.