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.”
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Like I said, I had two finals and an 18 page page paper due today, so I did very little blogging over the weekend. That being said, I would like to examine the big things I missed. Sophia is going to be at the Harris County Democratic Party headquarters this evening to follow the drama of last-minute filings and the like, and we’ll work on a somewhat comprehensive article on that topic either tonight or tomorrow morning. Also, I realize that Justice Larry Meyers of the Court of Criminal Appeals switched parties today, but I will be discussing that in greater detail in another post.
First and foremost, the Texas Tribune reports that the long-plagued CPRIT (Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas) is back in the news as one of its officialls has been indicted on charges of impropriety. This investigation, spurred by the Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit, is focused on Jerry Cobbs. He is accused of doling out contracts to his friends unlawfully, a first-degree felony, possibly punishable by life in prison. Sophia beat me to the punch on this story, as did Brains & Eggs, Burnt Orange Report, Off the Kuff and South Texas Chisme.
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A number of years ago, I gave a pair of speeches to the City Council and the School Board on the topic of ending offensive names at centers of public education. Originally, this complaint was limited to schools named after Confederates. However, after a suggestion from then-City Councilmember Sue Lovell, I began campaigning for HISD to rename offensive mascot names. The most infamous of these names is the athletic mascot of Lamar High School, the “redskins.”
The tremendously offensive slur for Native Americans has added insult since the namesake of the school, Mirabeau Lamar (a former President of the Republic of Texas), who made a point of working towards the “extinction” of Indians during his tenure as President. It is like having a disparaging term for African-Americans be the mascot name of Jefferson Davis High School.
Anyways, the School Board ultimately took no action on the subject, and sent me back one of the most patronizing letters I think I have ever read. Among the many unsubstantiated claims in the letter was that the term “Redskin” was chosen with “honor and respect.” The allegation is so preposterous that it does not deserve a response.
That is why it gladdened me to see Houston Chronicle columnist Randy Harvey come out in favor of changing the name to something –anything– less offensive.
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