Letter to the Editor: An old alum joins the statue debate
Editor’s Note: This is a letter to the editor that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. Letters to the editor are edited for grammar and spelling by Thresher editors.
My name is Tom (Tex) Moore, and I’m a member of the Class of 1957. I’m a plank owner of Hanszen College. This letter is in response to a survey requested by President Leebron’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice concerning the fate of William Marsh Rice’s statue. It relates to the current debate about removing it. It’s by way of a reply by an old alum to the recent letter printed from Divine, Taylor, Lauren, and Emily.
To the Task Force:
My class was 1957 — when President Leebron was two years old. Willy’s endowment paid for my Rice tuition. I have supported Rice generously in the past, but I've ceased at present. I am not pleased with the direction President Leebron is taking the university — I've written a couple of letters to him and the Alumni Association expressing my thoughts.
I believe Rice's mantra for the next century should be, "We welcome diversity; We seek excellence." President Leebron comes to us from a long East Coast/West Coast liberal background, and seems bent on transforming Rice into the Berkeley of the South. His article in Rice Magazine, and his actions, are, in my opinion, taking Rice in the wrong direction.
I am, of course, white (and aged), but it seems to me that if I were a student who happened to be Black, I would want to feel that it was my own qualifications that I worked so hard for that got me accepted. To have the president single me out as needing sympathy and understanding for my "sorrow, fear, and pain" related to my assumed background and experience in a nation that rejects me because of skin color would strike me as the worst kind of bigotry.
I'd like to see the Task Force drop its obvious focus on Black students, and reorient to identifying projects to benefit the Houston community that the entire student body could participate in. The emphasis here is to consider the student body as a cohesive group of proud Owls, not a collection of diverse groups, some of which need singling out for special treatment.
As for Willy's Statue (I still call it that), it commemorates the philanthropy of a man to whom you and I owe a great deal for our education. A few months after Trump's inauguration, Rice would have celebrated his 201st birthday. He, like us, was a man of his time. To denigrate him now because he didn't share the woke philosophy of the students who wrote recent letters to the Thresher is not warranted.
Poll your Task Force. How many are wearing clothes and carrying electronic devices produced by oppressed workers in foreign factories run by governments and owners who don't share our enlightened views of human rights? Will some future version of "cancel culture" rip your names from the rolls of Rice Alumni because of your insensitivity to social injustice in today's world? Times change, and tearing down monuments to historical icons is a slippery slope.
As for Rice himself, he clearly owed the bulk of his fortune to his business success which depended in large part on producers who relied on slave labor. This was the culture he grew up in. He acquired a handful of slaves as payment for his services, and employed them before the war in his household and business. (Editor’s Note: William Marsh Rice enslaved at least 15 people.)
Rice was clearly not one who thought and acted like a 21st century man (or woman), but he was a philanthropist who aimed to improve his world through education. Our education. I'd like to think he would be pleased to see the improvements in America’s culture, unequaled in the history of the world, that until recently have marked our society. Let us keep his statue to celebrate the changes that our nation has undergone since his birth 200 years ago, and issue a report from your Task Force that will unite, and not divide our student body.
Tom (Tex) Moore
Class of 1957
[3/24/2021 2:37 p.m.] Since initial publication, this letter to the editor has been updated to remove one line regarding the potential motives of one enslaved person, due to inability to fact check.
[3/25/2021 4:43 p.m.] This letter to the editor has been corrected to more accurately reflect the time between Trump’s inauguration and William Marsh Rice’s birthday.
[3/26/2021 9:47 a.m.] This letter to the editor has been updated to include an editor’s note within the body of the letter.
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