NAACP Sues Virginia School Board That Restored Confederate Names

News & Politics

Last month, the Shenandoah County School Board voted to restore the names of two Confederate generals who had been erased by the backlash against George Floyd’s death in 2020. Ashby-Lee Elementary and Stonewall Jackson High were renamed “Honey Run” and “Mountain View.” Both schools have now had their original names restored.

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“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.

But the change didn’t sit well with the local NAACP. It has sued the school district for creating “an unlawful and discriminatory” environment for black students.

The suit was filed on behalf of five students who “don’t want to be forced to glorify or represent historical figures who fought to maintain slavery and white supremacy.” 

They don’t teach much history in that school district. Northerners were as much white supremacists as any Southerner, as the former slaves found out when they went north after the war to find work. 

“There’s a cold wind blowing in America and it has especially chilled Shenandoah County,” the Rev. Cozy Bailey, the Virginia NAACP president, said at a news conference Tuesday. 

That’s very poetic, but what exactly is he talking about?

“This backward move has received a negative reaction all over the world,” Bailey said, “and the world is watching to see if this variety of the seeds of hate and disenfranchisement will take root and return Shenandoah County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to the days when racial exclusion was the law of the land.”

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Get a grip, man. Jim Crow is not coming back, and hanging trees are not being prepared all across the state. They’re school names, for God’s sake, Reverend, not a call to arms.

NPR:

In a contentious board meeting, opponents of the move — including some current students — noted that the 1959 decision to name the schools after Confederate generals came at a time when Virginia’s leaders were fighting to keep the state’s schools racially segregated, despite the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. By embracing the Confederate names now, they said, the board would brand their county as a haven for backward and racist thinking.

Supporters of undoing the 2020 change said that taking Confederate figures’ names off the schools was a “knee-jerk” reaction to protests of George Floyd’s murder by police. The removal, they said, looked to erase the region’s history and silence its majority. Some also said the change had been adopted after little debate and notice. In the end, the board approved changing back to the Confederate names by a 5-1 vote.

Predictably, at least one of the students feels “unwelcome” at a school she felt very welcome at as long as the name of the school wasn’t a Confederate general she probably never heard of.

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“Plaintiffs are not seeking damages in this case,” said attorney Ashley Joyner Chavous, of the Covington & Burling law firm, at Tuesday’s news conference. “They are seeking change — in the right direction.”

Whose “right direction”? 

Destroying tradition is not the way to create unity. By extension, anyone who supports maintaining the names of Confederate generals is racist scum and those on the “right side” are pure of heart and innocent of motive.

Even if the NAACP loses the case, it is going to activate the students to protest until the name is changed back.

I prefer using numbers to name public schools. That way, there’s no controversy.

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