Recently, I engaged in a Facebook debate on the issue of changing the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary school in East Wenatchee, WA. It was a good debate and except for one person making the inference that I was “casually racist” it was a good, focused debate. No name calling, etc. Not one of those shit heads cussed! If any of those people are reading this, I say thank you!
This issue is another situation where I look at people, their zeal to make the world right and wonder “Where do we stop?” Folks in East Wenatchee want to change that school’s name for fear it may remind some of racism, slavery, and because Robert E. Lee defended slavery. My arguments are that this won’t make a difference in the big picture and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—money that won’t be spent on education.
Why did this just now became an issue? Wasn’t Robert E. Lee the same guy since…well his birth? We’ve known about Lee and his life for several years, now. Lee Elementary was named decades ago. And just now in 2017 it’s an issue? Does this mean our educational system is getting better? Or did we run out of things to clutch our pearls about?
Some people believe very strongly that this issue. I asked, who was willing to take out a $100,000 loan to pay for the name change? All I got was a bunch of muttered “Well, I think someone started a collection…” “I think there’s a fundraiser….” But no one believed enough in this to take it on themselves.
So, now we’re renaming things to cleanse ourselves of guilt over slavery and racism. Again, how far do we go? Who wants to take the lead to change the name of Washington Elementary? How about changing the name of Washington state? University of Washington. Washington State University?
Oh? Am I being silly? How so? All y’all stupefy me! You’re trying to ban tobacco yet you’ve legalized marijuana. I can’t smoke a cigar in a cigar shop, but I can go smoke whatever weed I want in a hookah bar. We task our legislature to pass laws (costing millions of our tax dollars) regarding texting while driving and distracted driving (with adequate laws on the books already) yet we can’t wait to get that new car that has the display screen that’s bigger than the TV I had in my bedroom as a young teen.
By the way, at the time of his death and through his presidency, Washington owned over 300 slaves. So, shall we make changes? Or can we accept that, at that time, slavery was universal. Of course that doesn’t make it right, but at that time, those guys hadn’t grasped the change or need for change. Just yet. But they did. They evolved. And it was those Founding Fathers (some of whom owned slaves) who started to bring slavery to an end.
Maybe it is a good thing to change those egregious names. I mean, imagine getting off the plane in Berlin and seeing a statue of Adolf Hitler. So maybe a man like Lee shouldn’t be memorialized–except in history books. Washington probably should be memorialized. He did some pretty cool shit. And while you’re at it, bring Pappy Boyington’s statue back to the UW campus! (If you get that one, let me know!)
My arguments are usually around the truth and the education. People seem to believe slavery didn’t exist until our Founding Fathers. They seem to believe racists are only white. And sadly, for them, they seem to think that changing a name, removing a monument or removing a flag is going to end racism. I hurt for those people. They’re going to be so disappointed, when, the next day, the sun comes up, the birds sing and the local Hammerskins are marching down Main St. undaunted.
When it comes to the vote on changing the name of Lee Elementary, I won’t be voting. I don’t live in that school district. They still get some of my taxes, but I only hope my money buys books or a new mimeograph machine. So all y’all go vote. It is your right as free, non-slave owning Americans. As for me…
I’m still here you bastards!