Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Woodrow Wilson, the racist

Since US President Woodrow Wilson is widely admired in pro-independence Catalan circles, because of his supposed position in favour of the self-determination of small nations, I thought some members of these circles might benefit from reading today's piece in the New York Times about his racist positions (after the piece, the paper has reinforced the point with an editorial):
"Perhaps best known for leading the United States during World War I and for trying to start the League of Nations, Wilson as president rolled back gains blacks had made since Reconstruction, removing black officials from the federal government and overseeing the segregation of rank­andfile workers. Raised in the South, he wrote of “a great Ku Klux Klan” that rose up to rid whites of “the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant Negroes.” During Wilson’s tenure as president of Princeton, no blacks were admitted — “The whole temper and tradition of the place are such that no Negro has ever applied,” he wrote — though Harvard and Yale had admitted blacks decades earlier. Princeton admitted its first black student in the 1940s."
Although his position in favour of self-determination was basically a plot to weaken the losers of the first world-war, to the extent that it led to the sacralization of small nationalisms, it paved the way for subsequent catastrophes (including ethnic cleansing) some of which survive today, as the late historian Tony Judt came to acknowledge in a famous article about Israel and Palestine. The positions of Wilson on small nations and on racism may be completely unrelated. Or they may not.

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