Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Recurring Thoughts on Confederate Iconography and Renaming Schools

Removing Confederate statues is news again, which reminds me of a high school sports schedule that I saw while traveling in Oklahoma last fall. The schedule was for an Oklahoma high school sports team called the Savages, illustrated with the expected imagery of a Native American face and an arrowhead. As thousands of students start their public education this fall, they will enter schools where mascot names also are considered as slurs for their identity. What matters is the present meaning of these symbols, mascots, and names, where children are educated. In Montgomery, Alabama, students continue to be educated in places named after men who would not have recognized most of the current students as human. Not content with refusing the change the names, the state later preserved Confederate school names into law under the guise of historical preservation, even though many of the Civil War-era school names occurred during the same periods that Confederate statues were erected to resist desegregation and against the wishes of at least one CSA general. While I am often told how bored and resentful Americans are with "identity politics," some of us are content to saddle schoolchildren with those identities. As we take down monuments that no longer reflect our values, let us also revisit the names of the places where our schoolchildren attend each day, when those names neither honor those values nor the children inside. 


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