From Houston, Texas comes this story, another instance of the retreat of confederate heritage. Thanks to a vote by the Houston Independent School District Board, “Robert E. Lee High School plus three middle schools — Henry Grady, Richard Dowling and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson — will get new names to be proposed by a committee from each campus. Four other schools that had also been on the name change list were pulled to allow trustees time to discuss the issue with communities from those campuses.” The story quotes Derek Alderman, a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee: “I think it’s important to realize that even before Charleston, we had some pretty highly publicized incidents of African-Americans pushing for changes in the way we as an American society deal with African-American expression and African-American memories and the role of white supremacy in our culture.” Alderman and Russell Weaver of Texas State University have a mapping project that “has identified at least 872 parks, natural features, schools, streets and other locations in 44 states named after major Confederate leaders.”
“Nick Harris, a 1996 graduate of Jefferson Davis High School — one of the campuses that was pulled from the name change list — told board members they should not focus on his alma mater’s name but on the students who have graduated over the years and contributed to Houston. ‘My biggest issue is: What’s the importance of changing the name? We need to worry about building the school,’ Harris said.”
That’s a popular tactic with those who oppose name changes and removal of monuments. They want to claim the name or the monument is so insignificant a symbol that we should be worried about “more important things.” Yet, their participation shows it was important enough to them to publicly speak out to oppose the change.
Hany Khalil of a group called Community Voices for Public Education, “said school names ‘should reflect the values we hold dear today.’ ”
There are those who say we shouldn’t judge people of the past by today’s values, and I agree with that; however, in deciding who we should honor, shouldn’t we also take current values into account as well as the contributions of the individual to make a well-rounded decision based on complete information on who we believe deserves to be honored?
What do you think?