The city of San Francisco is considering renaming over 40 of its public schools, including one named after President Abraham Lincoln and another after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) over connections to white supremacy.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a renaming advisory committee comprised of parents, students, teachers, and community members presented a list of schools whose names should be changed due to purported ties to “slaveholding, colonization, or oppression.”
“Abraham Lincoln is not seen as much of a hero at all among many American Indian Nations and Native peoples of the United States, as the majority of his policies proved to be detrimental to them,” claims the spreadsheet explaining each proposed name removal, the Times reports.
As for Sen. Feinstein, the spreadsheet claims she was “responsible for the eviction of a whole Pilipino neighboorhood, and the police brutaility, allowed police dogs to atack filipino veteran elders. She repeatly protected and flew the confederate flag in front of sf city hall. [sic]”
The Times notes that this likely refers to the eviction of 150 elderly Chinese and Filipino tenants from the International Hotel in 1977 ahead of its demolition and the flying of the Confederate flag outside City Hall back in 1964.
A spokesperson for the senator argued that both incidents occurred before Feinstein’s ten-year stint as mayor of San Francisco that began in 1978.
“The school district is free to take whatever action it deems necessary, but it’s important to know the flag, part of a design installed years before Sen. Feinstein was a supervisor or mayor, came down during her tenure as mayor,” the spokesperson conceded.
The renaming committee began its presentation with an homage to the Ramaytush Ohlone people, whose homeland is now occupied by the city of San Francisco.
Then came the list of schools whose names the committee had flagged for removal because of alleged associations with slaveholding, colonization or oppression.
There were 42 in all — a third of San Francisco’s public schools.
Some of the schools’ namesakes, like California missionary Father Junipero Serra and “The Star-Spangled Banner” composer Francis Scott Key, have much-debated legacies.
The storied magnet school Lowell High was also on the list — its namesake, James Russell Lowell, was an abolitionist but depicted Black people unfavorably in his writings.
Committee members said school names should represent the school district’s values, which include respecting every person equally.
“The names of all the schools in this city should reflect people to be admired,” said Mary Travis Allen, a member of the renaming advisory committee.
The fate of the names of the 42 schools is yet to be determined. Each school has until December 18 to suggest new names, which must be approved by the school board.
The renaming proposal is not without its opponents in high places, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Earlier in the fall, Breed came out swinging against the renaming plan as a shallow facade and a distraction from the real solution: getting kids back into school.
Today I issued a statement on the need for our School District to focus on reopening our public schools, not renaming them. To address inequities, we need to get our kids back in the classroom. pic.twitter.com/nHnauVZzFe
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) October 16, 2020
“It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity,” Breed wrote in a news release. “It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college. It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”
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