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Scrubbing Boalt’s name from UC Berkeley Law is the wrong way to denounce racism

Scrubbing Boalt’s name from UC Berkeley Law is the wrong way to denounce racism
UC Berkeley Law has decided to rename its main building because of the anti-Chinese views espoused by its namesake, 19th century lawyer John Henry Boalt. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: One of your articles describes how UC Berkeley law lecturer Charles Reichman “kicked off the furor” over the appalling vitriol and racism of 19th century lawyer John Boalt against Chinese immigrants. Reichman said he found it difficult to walk into classes in Berkeley’s Boalt Hall that were full of Asian American students.

It seems to me that “Boalt” alumni and students consist of many people of Chinese ancestry who have used his family legacy and support of Berkeley Law to create successful, productive lives, directly making his hatred null and void in the best possible way.

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The university should have kept the Boalt Hall name. Having so many Asian students taking law classes in that building seems like the perfect disavowal of Boalt’s terrible views.

Jane Diamond, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: Because it has come to light that the man who helped finance UC Berkeley’s first law school held an extreme prejudice against the Chinese immigrants in the 1800s, the university has decided to change the name of Boalt Hall. Similarly, the founder of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco behaved egregiously toward American Indians.

By today’s standards, Boalt and Hastings were unacceptably hateful. However, changing the names of institutions and removing statues accomplish nothing.

Rather than erasing history, we should congratulate ourselves for evolving into an increasingly inclusive society and leave past reminders in place as teaching tools.

Kathleen Robertson, Orinda, Calif.

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To the editor: President Trump’s anti-immigrant rants sound similar to Boalt’s anti-Chinese prejudice more than 100 years ago. I guess haters tend not to change.

Robert Dean, Thousand Oaks

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