Enriquez ’16: Earning the name
Brown was founded by a family that accrued vast wealth by trading human beings. Directly and indirectly, the family killed thousands, uprooted tens of thousands and ruthlessly made money by doing so.
Should we remove their surname and ruin our school’s identity?
Why? Because, like it or not, our identity comes in large part from our name. It may have started off poorly, but too many incredibly good things have been produced by Brown. All that our institution has achieved far outweighs our founding’s dark history and allows us to proudly say that we come from Brown.
The only reason to change a reasonable name is if you need a fresh start. In business, they call it rebranding. In the same way that Brown does not need to be rebranded, neither does the Third World Center.
According to the TWC website, its name “is not to be confused with the economic definition of the term used commonly in our society today, but understood as a term that celebrates diverse cultures.” Rather, the name is derived from a book by Creole-born Frantz Fanon, in which he implores nations outside the developed West or the U.S.S.R/Eastern Europe to create their own “cultural model of empowerment and liberation” that would separate them from the oppression of imperialism.
Aside from the fact that the TWC’s explanation of the name is clearly not racist, this institution has done some incredibly good things for our community under the banner of the Third World Center. The TWC has a solid history of assisting minorities and providing them with a space to discuss race, life and school. Countless students have relied on this backing to progress through college. We should not insult them by saying that their past and all of their successes have not earned them the right to ownership and pride in the center’s name.
Sure, the name “Third World Center” may bring to mind a condescending view of minorities and non-Western culture. But just like everything else in life, it depends on how you frame it.
If you are paranoid, the most innocuous comment can always seem insulting. Even if you think someone is insulting you, the better man will always look more holistically at the other person and beyond the temporary slight. Is the person insulting you good in other areas of life? Is he or she respectful? Does he or she strive for a better world?
If you don’t react with a knee-jerk macho response, you end up liking people much more. I think our world would be an infinitely better place if we also did this with our institutions. Just as we shouldn’t take Obama’s middle name and say he is an evil Muslim terrorist, we shouldn’t read the center’s name and say it reflects or promotes racist or elitist views. As a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, I can tell you this: Many of the Mexicans I know do not care that the United States considers their home a “Third World” country. They would probably laugh and say Americans have too much time.
The name is fine. Keep it. The center has earned it.
Nico Enriquez ’16 is growing peckish as a result of his elitism. He can be reached at email@example.com .
Gaines ’16: Honor the history
Before discussing whether the Third World Center’s name should change, it is important to understand where the name came from. Many students with opinions on the TWC’s name have not looked at the rich history that led to the center’s creation.
The term “Third World” comes from Frantz Fanon’s 1961 “The Wretched of the Earth.” Fanon describes a “Third Way” different from the capitalist powers of the First World and the Communist forces of the Second World.
This is put in perspective when you have an uncle — a black male — who was spared by a Viet Cong soldier who told him, “You don’t have a country to go back to.” This was a movement to empower those oppressed by racism and colonialism to take a stand against imperialist forces in the Cold War and define themselves as different, independent and proud. The TWC has adopted this legacy of empowerment and proud difference through its mission and guiding philosophy.
In recent decades, the “Third World” has assumed a negative connotation, becoming an economic and political label for developing countries. Often, the center’s name is considered outdated for this reason. Yet no one has challenged how or why this term — coined through a movement of empowerment — was corrupted over time.
This change has continually forced the TWC to explain its name, to clarify its purpose and to defend its history. Criticisms have become more frequent and harsher in recent years, reaching the point where challenges to the name have distracted many students from recognizing or understanding the TWC’s work. In this, they have begun to hinder the TWC from serving students of color on Brown’s campus. This should be the only reason the center should consider changing its name.
The TWC is meant to serve as a physical space and establish a community where students of color can find comfort and support. Therefore, changing the name of the TWC is not an issue that needs to be addressed by the entire Brown community. The students who should decide if and how the name should change should be the same students the center is meant to serve — students of color.
Likewise, the name of the TWC, or whatever it becomes, was not designed and should not attempt to make the greater Brown community more comfortable. The goals of the Third World Center as demonstrated by the pre-orientation program Third World Transition Program and the Minority Peer Counselor “-ism” workshops, are not to make all students feel at ease. These goals were designed to push the boundaries of mainstream society on all-but-comfortable issues. Thus, a name change should not serve to placate voices on campus that are offended but not affected by the center.
If the TWC is renamed, it is of the utmost importance that the center’s history not be lost. The history of the TWC informs the future of the center and keeps it in line with its original purpose. A fear in renaming the TWC is losing the name’s significance. If the name is changed to something generic such as the Center for Diversity or the Multicultural Center, the space itself loses the core of its existence.
A new name should offer insight into the TWC’s past and provide a path that will carry on in the present. This year marks Brown’s 250th and the MPC program’s 40th anniversaries. If the TWC is to be renamed, this would be the year to honor its history and celebrate its future.
Justice Gaines ’16 is a member of The Brown Conversation. Contact him and other members of the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feldman ’15: Third World What?
The Third World Center is in desperate need of a name change.
Created in 1976, it was named the Third World Center instead of something including the term “minority,” because the founders believed the word carried a negative connotation. Is the term “third world” actually better? Nowadays, most would argue the exact opposite.
A survey conducted last fall seems to agree with that idea by favoring a potential name change. Of the students surveyed, 46 percent believed the TWC should change its name, 16 percent said it should remain the same and the rest had no preference. But a plurality of support isn’t the only reason the name should change.
The problem with the TWC is that its name has relatively little to do with its actual mission.
When I first heard the Third World Center mentioned, I assumed it was some kind of advocacy or social action group with the goal of helping people in underprivileged countries. I never would have thought it was meant to welcome different cultures to Brown and ingrain them into the community.
The name of the center should better reflect the students it actually serves. Wouldn’t it be much easier to help a target audience if that audience knew they were actually being addressed?
The term “third world” refers to developing countries with some compilation of low life expectancies, educations and personal incomes. African countries are usually associated with the term, but some Asian and Latin American countries also fit the mold.
Countries like India, Brazil and others with large economies and international significance, however, do not fall under the category of “third world.” While those countries may have extremely impoverished areas, the term looks more at countries as a whole.
Why would any group want to embody a derogatory connotation when the name doesn’t even apply? Nowadays, it is better to refer to these countries as “developing” than “third world.” The TWC brings a lot of great speakers to campus, but the name distorts the perception of what they will actually discuss.
The TWC states that its name should not be confused with the socioeconomic label for a country. The name was based on Franz Fanon’s writing in the ’60s that argued for a third way of life, separate from the USSR and USA. The label was meant to bridge the gap between minority groups and serve as a symbol of liberation by escaping the shadow of the two world powers. The name was quite well intended.
But just because the center does not intend to evoke the current socioeconomic association does not mean people won’t assume that’s what it means. If someone has to research the TWC to find out it has nothing to do with developing countries, odds are that they are just going to assume it does.
A rebranding could strongly benefit the TWC. While changing the name would be inconvenient, it would also help students know what the center’s mission is and increase the likelihood of student involvement.
It doesn’t matter whether a student is put off by the name because he or she has roots in a developing country and believes the name is offensive or if a person is a tenth generation citizen and finds the term demeaning and ill-chosen. Students with both backgrounds have a valid argument — having a building on campus with such a questionable name reflects poorly on the entire university.
With the TWC’s current willingness to change its name, there isn’t a better time for action. No one is going to be completely happy with any name, whether it is the current name or a new one. The important thing is that the name adequately reflects the organization’s message so students can enjoy the TWC’s benefits. A name better reflective of the intended target would get more people involved.
Andrew Feldman ’15 loves name changes but is going to stick with this one so that he can be reached at email@example.com.