UPDATE: HISD has voted unanimously to drop the offensive mascots, including the Lamar Redskins, so reports the Houston Chronicle.
As I noted on Monday, HISD is moving towards renaming offensive mascot names, most notably the Lamar Redskins, and will decide the matter unequivocally at a Board of Trustees meeting later tonight. But what I would like to talk about is the (albeit quieter) dispute over offensive school names, the most egregious of these being the Confederate officers honored: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and John Reagan.
I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Houston Chronicle on this topic and, much to my amazement, it was printed in yesterday morning’s paper. The astute will recall that, four and a half years ago, I first got into politics by fighting against HISD schools named after Confederates. I had developed a standard speech that I had delivered a few times during those years, lamenting the fact that that African-American students and other minorities would be forced to go to Jeff Davis High School, comparing the plight to me, a Jewish person, going to Adolf Eichmann Middle School.
Accordingly, I was heartened to see the Chronicle’s editorial board write this morning that “HISD should set a policy that prohibits discriminatory…school names.” The editorial, also brought to light the idea that the maltreatment of Native Americans or African-Americans, if applied to another group such as the Jews, would be obviously appalling, and that the same standards should be used for other groups. “Tradition is important, but it should not trump the values of an inclusive society,” the editorial said, just as how I had said “nostalgia and tradition can never be so strong as to allow discrimination in any form to survive.”
The editorial even closed stating that we should not “name buildings after defenders of slavery.” While I am obviously not so narcissistic as to think this editorial was written with me in mind, I am humbled nonetheless to see others take on this noble issue. Back in 2009, it sure seemed like I was standing alone in taking on this cause, so others coming to their senses is surely welcomes news.
I have contacted Mary Benton and Courtney Zavala, the two representatives of KPRC I talked with when I was first interviewed for this issue, attempting to set up another conversation while it is hot in the news. That being said, even if the School Board renames the mascot names tonight (which I, of course, hope they do), I hope the Chronicle still exerts pressure over the equally offensive school names. I’ll leave with what I said when I was 15, which is absolutely just as relevant today:
“Some people say we should leave these schools as they are because they represent a part of our history. Well, yes, bigotry and discrimination are parts of our history, but not the type of history we should be honoring in our schools. Why can’t these schools be named after people who have campaigns FOR –not against– Civil Rights. Nelson Mandela, Bobby Kennedy and Mickey Leland, to name a few.”