An African-American man who has been employed at Yale University for nearly a decade lost his job after losing his cool and smashing a stained-glass window in the dining hall where he worked. The man claims the window, which featured slaves picking cotton, was racist.
Corey Menafee, who has worked at a dishwasher in Yale’s Calhoun residential college dining hall since 2007, is currently facing a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and a felony charge of criminal mischief after a June 13 incident in which he took a broom handle and smashed a stained-glass window that he believed was racist. Speaking with the New Haven Independent, Menafee said the racist window angered him, and after years of having to stare at it while at work, he decided to take action.
“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it. It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that. I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it. I put myself in a position to do it, and did it.'”
Menafee was arrested shortly after the incident, but according to Yale spokeswoman Eileen O’Connor, the University has no desire to press charges against the long-time employee, despite the fact that a woman was almost injured by the falling glass of the shattered window. However, his action did result in a reckless endangerment charge.
“An incident occurred at Calhoun College, a residential college on the campus of Yale University, in which a stained glass window was broken by an employee of Yale, resulting in glass falling onto the street and onto a passerby, endangering [her] safety. The employee apologized for his actions and subsequently resigned from the University. The University will not advocate that the employee be prosecuted in connection with this incident and is not seeking restitution.”
Menafee has since said that he regretted his decision to break the racist window, adding that though his actions could be considered civil disobedience, he wholly believes there are better ways to bring about change than to simply destroy something that angers you.
However, some good has come out of the Yale employee’s decision to break the racist window — his actions have sparked a discussion about other stained-glass windows around Yale’s Calhoun residential college that depict moments in the life of former U.S. Vice President John Calhoun that could also be considered racist. Calhoun was a strong proponent of slavery, and his name on the Yale University building has been a point of contention for some time. Last year, a petition circulated demanding Calhoun’s name be removed from the college, but Yale has decided to keep the name.
In the wake of Menafee smashing the racist window, Yale has decided to remove other offending stained-glass windows throughout the Calhoun building’s common room. Julie Adams, the head of Calhoun college, said in Yale’s student newspaper that “damage to one of the windows” in the dining hall had prompted a review of the building’s other stained-glass windows by Yale’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces, which ultimately decided to remove other windows that could be potentially seen as racist, reports the National Post.
“My goal is to have things ready for Hounies’ return to campus. Placating people wasn’t in my mind. Rather I hope that the specific mingling of the old and new, in which the students and broader Calhoun community will have a hand, opens to the future as well as the past.”
In addition to the removal of other offending windows, Yale officials have also announced that the dining hall in the Calhoun building, which once housed the racist window smashed by Menafee, will be renamed for African-American Yale alumnus Roosevelt Thompson. A GoFundMe account has been set up for Corey Menafee “to assist him in an interim of unemployment.”
[Photo by Bob Child/AP Images]