If Austin had a larger black population, the decision about renaming one of the city’s elementary schools probably would cause rioting. The upshot will be a lot of verbal fireworks from patronizing white “liberals” — the kind who oppose the nickname “Redskins” even though most of the real ones don’t give a war whoop about it.
The decision about the school’s name, which has been months in the making, transforms Robert E. Lee Elementary to Russell Lee Elementary. It’s not only a late entry in the anti-Confederacy hysteria that swept campuses and Statehouses last year, but it’s a rather timid one. (Not that I care.) Here’s the story:
The Austin school board on Monday night voted to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary, the first time the district has changed the name of a school because of its ties to the Confederacy.
In an 8 to 1 vote, trustees chose Russell Lee Elementary, the name favored among the school’s parents and teachers….
Some community members voiced support for the name because the school already is referred to as just Lee. Two weeks ago, it appeared that a majority of trustees wanted to stick with the school community’s wishes.
Russell Lee was a critically acclaimed Depression-era photographer and the founding professor of the University of Texas photography department. He also lived in the neighborhood. A major collection of his work is archived at the University of Texas’ Briscoe Center for American History, and some of his work hangs in the hallways of the school.
Trustee Amber Elenz said hundreds of hours among the school’s community went into the decision and she felt the board should honor their choice.
“This name change is really only happening because the school asked us to make it happen,” Elenz said. “The decision of name choices came to us solely through the hard work, long hours and collaborative efforts of the school’s leadership within the campus’ advisory council. The recommendation to name the school Russell Lee Elementary is the result of a clearly defined, open, transparent and purposeful process that was developed by and for the Lee Elementary school community.”…
More than 240 suggestions were submitted as possibilities to replace the school name, including several sassy retorts probably from those opposed to making any kind of name change — such as Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial Elementary School. In late April, the campus advisory council announced it had narrowed the list to eight.
The issue of whether to change the name of the campus was debated for months. In the wake of last year’s church shootings in Charleston, S.C. — which killed nine African-Americans and prompted a national conversation about whether flags and other Confederate symbols belong in public spaces and buildings — Austin community members called on the district to change the name of the school. Ultimately, more than 500 residents signed a petition calling for a new name for Lee, which was named after the Confederate general in 1939. Lee has been Austin’s only campus to request a name change.
Anyway, the thing that probably will cause the never-satisfied white “liberals” of Austin to rise up (verbally, of course) is the ironic fact that Russell Lee was white:
I would have voted for Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial Elementary School.