I would like to begin with a clear sentiment that I am not in support of Amherst College’s unofficial mascot – the Lord Jeff – but that the action of its removal does bring to head some contradictions, which I find problematic.
People want to change the mascot because Lord Jeffery Amherst gave Native American blankets with smallpox – ultimately killing many. Yet, the town of Amherst, MA is named after Lord Jeffery Amherst and Amherst College is named after the town. People do not want the mascot to represent our school, but doesn’t the name of our college represent the college more than an unofficial mascot does?
Further, what does simply “erasing” the mascot not do? While reading and talking about Nell Painter’s History of White People, I was faced with the duty of allowing “great thinkers” to both contribute to society in a powerful, positive way and cause destruction of humanity through creating or promoting a system of inequality based on skin color. Their impact on society must then be understood as two-fold. Choosing to ignore their problematic contribution perpetuates it, as people are not given the opportunity to form a complete picture and opinion about historical figures. Similarly, simply removing the Lord Jeff as the unofficial mascot does not erase his history, nor does it erase the implications of naming the town and, ultimately, college after him. Thus, while I agree that action must be taken regarding the mascot, I am suggesting that there might be a better way to go about this process. A process that acknowledges Lord Jeffery Amherst’s comprehensive history and the divergence of Amherst College’s legacy from his, does not erase or negate his wrongdoings, and could heal the college in a way that just removing the mascot does not.