I was informed in passing by a friend that Capital was once again having what seems like the perennial conversation pertaining to our mascot, the crusader. This was a debate that was bubbling up even as I was graduating in 2015. The mascot never particularly bothered me, and in hindsight, this is an oversight I regret, especially because so many of my friends and I were deeply engaged on campus. I am very happy that other students and faculty have again stepped up to defend our university’s values. For too long, Capital has retained this racist crusader mascot, distinctly at odds with the stated values of the institution, its leadership, and many others affiliated with a place that has for so many felt like home.
The institution claims to envision a world of “Purposeful People,” and yet has failed to engage in sufficient reflection and introspection to identify the damage that the crusader does to our image. “Purposeful People” indeed. Some think that the crusader is somehow deeply affiliated with Capital, and yet as has been noted in this very publication, Capital was once the “Fighting Lutherans.” Imprudent nostalgia to defend the crusader as something that is deeply entwined with Capital misses the recklessness of transmitting a mascot that is fundamentally insensitive to those whose lives are touched by racism and violence.
Capital lays claims to the values of “free inquiry” and “open community,” among others. I wonder how open and free an organization can be if prospective students receive a message that turns them away, giving them an image not of an open university that engages in critical inquiry, but instead one that unreflectively shows its connection to bigotry and violence. The leadership of Capital should no longer remain obsequious to forces resistant to change, and instead work to place our stated values at the forefront of this conversation. While some claim that a mascot is trivial, I would remind them of the tremendous complexities of history and the continual mission to reconcile past injustices. It took Lutherans hundreds of years to wrestle with Martin Luther’s virulent anti-Semitism, the stains of which still exist not only in the church, but in society more broadly. We cannot evade our roots and our history, but we can work together to form broader, more inclusive communities.
This idea of community fundamentally underpins the notion of a CapFam. An institution such as Capital requires an ever-expanding community, one that brings in new ideas, concepts, and traditions. Only a dysfunctional CapFam would fail to grapple with the ways in which it failed and continues to fail its members. We are therefore called to bear witness to the sufferings of others, and as we learn from various religious traditions, repentance is a powerful and constructive force for progress. When I sit down in conversation with others and talk about my institutional roots, I hope to one day be able to do so with more pride.
Grant M. Sharratt, ‘15
PhD Candidate, Political Science, The Ohio State University