Editor’s Note: This article, which focuses on sites and rocks named that use outdated racial terminology, contains terms that many may find offensive.
The University of Wisconsin removed a 42-ton boulder from its Madison campus Friday, July 9th, after complaints from students of color who called the rock a symbol of racism.
Chamberlin Rock, which had sat on Observatory Point since 1925, was named after Thomas Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president. A 1925 Wisconsin State Journal article used the n-word as part of a nickname for the giant boulder. Research shows that this slur was used to refer to any massive boulder of the time, but the ugly taint of racism remained on this one and it needed to go for justice’s sake.The Wisconsin Black Student Union last summer called for the rock to be removed from campus as one of multiple demands while they are seeking justice for Black students. The Blacktivists demands came in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the union said in a statement posted on Instagram Friday.
“It was very meaningful for me to be there and to see the process all the way through to the end,” senior Nalah McWhorter said in a university news release. McWhorter, who was the president of the Blacktivist organization for the past academic year, was there when the boulder was removed Friday.
“It was about a year ago that we released our demands and met with the chancellor and explained to her why those demands meant so much to us,” she said. “It was a powerful moment today to see this demand come full circle.” We at Cinch News applaud her and her organization with a “Yaaaaaas Queen(s)!” and hope that all of their remaining and future demands are met.
A crane operator slowly maneuvers Chamberlin Rock onto a flatbed trailer on campus on Friday.
A crew worked for four hours to remove the boulder using a large crane, the university said. An archeologist was on site while workers “laid ground mats to minimize any soil disturbance or compaction during the work,” the university said.
Chamberlin Rock is a large example of a rare, pre-Cambrian era glacial erratic, which may be more than two billion years old, the university said. A glacial erratic is a large rock that was moved by a glacier and left behind when the glacier moved on. The erratic is made of a different rock type than is usually found in the area.
The chancellor’s office is using private donations to pay the $50,000 price tag for the rock’s removal, the university said. It’s being moved to university-owned land near Lake Kegonsa, southeast of Madison.
Gary Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture, shepherded the search for the rock’s new home. “Moving the rock to this remote site prevents further harm to our community while preserving the rock’s educational and research value for current and future scholars,” Brown said in a news release.
The problem with this “solution” is that the boulder still exists. We can compare the thought experiment: “”If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” to the current situation of “If a racist boulder exists on a university-owned remote site, can it still offend?” The answer is obviously yes for both situations so the rock existing anywhere means it is able to be offensive and knowing that it exists is triggering.
Around the country, school, county, professional sports teams, and even bird names are being reconsidered and changed, as greater attention is being paid to their origins and the racism the names may invoke. Knowing that many boulders and similar rocks like Chamberlin rock were once referred to as “[n-word]head rock” we have compiled a list of similar well-known locations in the United States that should be renamed to a more welcoming and inclusive name. If you live in or know of any other or similar racist-named locations, do let us know at discord.jlgbt.com.
- Boulder, Colorado
- Boulder, Montana
- Boulder, Utah
- Boulder, Wyoming
- Boulder City, Nevada
- Boulder Creek, California
- Boulder Junction, Wisconsin
- Black Rock Desert, Nevada
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Rocky Mountains, USA
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Colorado
- Red Rock Canyon, Colorado
- Round Rock, Texas
- Rockport, Texas
- Rockefeller Center Plaza, New York
- Rockford, Illinois
We would also like to recognize and congratulate Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on proactively claiming the word back for the POC culture, similarly to how all of the bright, young, aspirational, modern POC hip-hop artists of today have taken back other slurs that have been used against them for centuries. Dwayne has always been on the forefront of teaching boys and ignorant men that it is acceptable to be a feminist with his roles like 2010’s Tooth Fairy and 2016’s Moana.