Schools in One Virginia County to Reinstate Confederate Names

Schools in One Virginia County to Reinstate Confederate Names, The New York Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar substack

SUMMARY: After a meeting that lasted for hours, the Shenandoah County school board voted early Friday morning to restore the names of three Confederate officers to schools in the district.

With the vote, the district appears to be the first in the country to return Confederate names to schools that had removed them after the summer of 2020, according to researchers at the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative.

The vote rolled back a decision made four years ago, when the killing of George Floyd prompted nationwide demands for a racial reckoning. At a virtual meeting in July 2020, the summer of pandemic and protests, the board voted 5-1 to drop the names of two schools — Ashby-Lee Elementary and Stonewall Jackson High — that it deemed incompatible with a recently passed resolution condemning racism. The schools were renamed the next year as Honey Run and Mountain View.

But a fury had been unleashed in the rural county in the mountains of Virginia. People crowded into school board meetings, denouncing the name changes as secretive and rushed through with little advance notice, and voicing deeper resentments about cultural shifts they saw as being foisted upon them.

After a revote ended in a tie in 2022, the name changes stood. But opponents swore that Stonewall Jackson would be revived. And on Friday, he was.

“When you read about this man — who he was, what he stood for, his character, his loyalty, his leadership, how Godly a man he was — those standards that he had were much higher than any leadership of the school system in 2020,” said Tom Streett, one the board members. Then he and four of his five colleagues voted to bring Jackson and the other names back.

MY TAKE: The students of Shenandoah County are surely getting a valuable lesson: Members of the school board lack the basic critical thinking skills required of most middle schoolers and they lack the moral standards of the average sitcom kid. They are bad thinkers and they are bad people. As soon as the students figure that out, they will lose all respect for the intellectual and moral capabilities of those in charge of their education. Great lesson, school board.

For example, the school board’s chairman justified their decision by claiming that the U.S. has less racism and civil strife than other countries around the world. Even if that statement is correct, that has nothing to do with this issue, which is the effect on the community of honoring men who were racists and traitors to this country. Even if Stonewall Jackson did heroic things in battle, ultimately he was not a hero. His battlefield heroics were in support of enslaving other human beings and destroying the United States. Just because Ted Bundy helped a neighbor who had fallen doesn’t make him any less a serial killer.

Jackson’s second wife praised him for his insistence on establishing Sunday school classes for Black people at his church because he believed “that it was more important and useful to put the strong hand of the Gospel under the ignorant African race, to lift them up.”

That same paternalistic attitude is expressed by this racist decision. A Latina member of the board, the only minority on it, dismissed claims of racism against the board by people who are “misled by those who seek division to strengthen their political ideology.” That’s an AI-inspired talking point right out of the MAGA handbook. And it’s wrong.

When they choose to celebrate the people who defended slavery and treason, they are celebrating that ideology as worthwhile. That is racism. When they do this in a state that is nearly 20% Black, they are insulting a fifth of their population (1.5 million people), making them fearful and devalued in their own homes. That is racism. It’s like naming a girls’ school after Harvey Weinstein because he made good movies.

Why is it that so many school boards are made up of people unqualified and inept at anything to do with education? This school board isn’t smart enough to realize when they are doing something racist and anti-American. They should be in school, not leading it.