Worker Smashes “Racist” Panel, Loses Job
The dishwasher, Corey Menafee, said he used a broomstick to knock the panel to the floor. He said he was tired of looking at the “racist, very degrading” image.City police arrested Menafee, who now faces a felony charge. The university, meanwhile, has cut ties with him. (It was not officially clear Monday afternoon how exactly that happened.)
His actions provide the latest chapter in a contentious debate over the racially charged symbolism of the college, named for slavery advocate and former U.S. Vice-President John C. Calhoun. The debate gathered steam last summer with a petition demanding a name change, and has since grown to encompass the slavery-themed paintings, artifacts, and stained-glass tiles displayed in the college. In April, Yale President Peter Salovey announced that Yale will keep the Calhoun name despite a year-long campaign by students and faculty calling for it to be changed.
Menafee, who is 38 years old, said he wasn’t motivated by allegiance to student activists when, while helping clean the hall on Monday, June 13, he decided on a sudden impulse to knock the panel down.
“When I walked into this job, I wasn’t aware of none of that,” Menafee said. “And then you know, being there, you start hearing different things.”
“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” he said. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”
“I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it,’” he added. “I put myself in a position to do it, and did it.”
I certainly don’t condone Menafee’s actions but I certainly understand black students’ and employees’ resentment. I don’t think should wipe out reminders of the past Stalin style but it would have been wise to move the panel to a museum or maybe the library.