Petition calling on Edinburgh University to rename a building named after David Hume attracts over 1000 signatures
A petition calling for Edinburgh University to drop the name of renowned Enlightenment philosopher David Hume from one its most prominent buildings due to his racist beliefs has attracted more than 1000 signatures.
The move comes as universities across the UK and USA have begun to rename campus buildings honouring historical figures who held racist views.
The petition, created by student Elizabeth Lund, is calling for the famous philosopher and Edinburgh University alumnus’ name to be removed because it is “a very simple step that might help create an anti-racist culture at the university.”
The petition suggests that the 14-storey building which bears Hume’s name should instead be named after Julius Nyerere, the first President of independent Tanzania who is also a graduate of Edinburgh University.
David Hume was a Scottish enlightenment philosopher, economist, historian and essayist, famous for his work on human nature and morality.
He is widely recognised as one of the UK’s most accomplished philosophers and has been called ‘The Father of the Enlightenment’, however he also has a long history of spreading racist views.
In 1754, Hume wrote in an essay: “I am apt to suspect the Ne***es to be naturally inferior to the whites.”
Ms Lund’s petition, which is being hosted on the website change.org, has so far amassed 1,252 signatures.
The petition reads: “David Hume wrote racist epithets not worth repeating here. Naming the most prevalent building on campus after Hume sends a very clear message to black, indigenous and people of colour students at Edinburgh that we are willing to overlook this racism for the sake of alumni glory.
“We should, however, not boast about the racist alumni of Edinburgh, especially given the institution’s long history of involvement in the field of eugenics. The university should be taking great steps to provide further support and resources to BIPOC on campus. This is a very simple step that might help create an anti-racist culture at the university.”
A spokeswoman for the BlackED Movement said: “As a Black student at Edinburgh University, it is hard to feel a sense of belonging. The fact that the University still does not have any disciplinary or report measures against racism to protect their BAME students reinforces the sentiment of alienation.
“However, with the Black Lives Matter movement, students are gaining strength in their voices to demand changes long due. One of them is renaming David Hume Tower.
“There is a danger for the University to continue commemorating a single story about David Hume, disregarding his racist views of Black students. Glorifying Hume’s bigotry supports white supremacy and the idea that scientific racism was widely used to justify slavery and colonisation. In fact, scholars like Hume helped to justify through eugenics.
“The major counterargument to this change was that there is the erasure of Hume’s achievements in history. The same way we do not need buildings and statues named after Hitler in Berlin to learn about him shows that this is not erasure of history. There are still books and the internet for that. People can still use his theories but the tower should be renamed.
“We hope that people will understand the non-overt disrespect, offence, and racism that Black students have to go through at the University of Edinburgh.”
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The University takes issues around acknowledging its past very seriously. We are working with our students, staff and members of the community to thoughtfully explore how we address these matters. As this process continues, we will continue to encourage dialogue to ensure we are fit for purpose in the 21st century.”