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Virginia Votes To Restore Confederate School Names

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

On Friday morning, School board members in Virginia’s Shenandoah County voted to restore the names of two schools that had previously been named for leaders of the Confederacy up until four years ago when they had been changed to names that didn’t honor people who fought for the preservation of the cruel, brutal, exploitive and racist inter-generational oppression and forced labor of Black people. And, of course, in true white-and-delusional conservative fashion, they are rewriting history in order to justify changing the schools’ names back.

According to CNN, the vote, which began Thursday, to restore the names Stonewall Jackson High School, which honors Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Ashby Lee Elementary School, which honors Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby, resulted in a 5-1 victory for people who believe racist warriors for Black bondage deserve to be commemorated. Predictably, community members who were in favor of the restoration of the school names worked their hardest at justifying the move to re-honor the legacies of Confederate generals, commanders and soldiers by making those legacies about anything other than the failed fight to preserve slavery.

“I ask that when you cast your vote, you remember that Stonewall Jackson and others fighting on the side of the Confederacy in this area were intent on protecting the land, the buildings and the lives of those under attack,” one woman said. “Preservation is the focus of those wishing to restore the names.”

See, this is some truly caucasified mental gymnastics right here. Jackson, Lee and Ashby certainly did fight to protect the “land” and “buildings”—which were built and maintained via slave labor. The Confederate labors certainly did protect people whose lives were “under attack”—though not the lives of those who were living and dying as the physical property of white people, having their future generations of children born into life-long servitude, having their heritage stripped away from them, being torn away from their families and being forced under threat of physical punishment and/or death to work day and night for white people to profit off of their free labor. Those people were absolutely “under attack,” but they weren’t considered people at the time, so they didn’t count. Perhaps the most insulting part of the unidentified community member’s revisionist nonsense was her use of the word “preservation” to describe what the community wants for the schools in honor of those who fought for the “preservation” of Black torture and servitude. 
“Why are we here tonight to go back to a time in history that was very cruel, where hatred and racism continued throughout this county and throughout the United States?” asked Gene Kilby, the last surviving son of James Wilson Kilby, a Virginia civil rights activist who helped desegregate schools in Virginia. “Is this the type of legacy that you want to put in Shenandoah County’s public school buildings?”
Yes—yes, it is, Gene. They won’t admit it though.
From CNN:
In the years since the 2020 killing of George Floyd, the names of Confederate leaders, Confederate monuments and symbols have been removed from numerous schools, universities, military facilities and even the Washington National Cathedral’s windows.
Nearly four years ago, the Shenandoah County School Board made such a decision and moved to rename Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School.
That 2020 move was part of a resolution condemning racism and affirming the district’s “commitment to an inclusive school environment,” according to school board documents.
The schools have been called Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School since July 2021, according to board documents.
But the composition of the school board is different now than it was during the 2020 decision – all six seats are held by different people.

So, on April 22, the six new members of the board criticized the way the school names were changed in 2020, saying it was rushed, that the pandemic was exploited to do it, and that it was done without the input of the community.

“So, for me, the main consideration is whether we, as a democratic nation of laws, will choose to ignore a decision made by a governmental body that exploited the tragedy of COVID or will rectify a wrongful action that has deeply divided our community. I choose the latter,” Board member Gloria E. Carlineo told CNN.

Yes, it’s a great tragedy that*checks notes*—school names were changed so that they didn’t honor oppressors during COVID. Again, one can only wonder if these people are even catching a whiff of the irony in the language they are using to justify honoring those who fought for slavery. By honoring these Confederate leaders, they are commemorating an institution that literally “divided” the country, “exploited” an entire race of people for roughly two and a half centuries and put those people through constant “tragedy.” Of course, that monumental “wrongful action” done by a “governmental body” should be celebrated, but changing those school names during COVID was, apparently, shameful. 

There’s a reason why it’s so important to conservatives that slavery be taught from perspectives that don’t highlight American racism and oppression, including the perspective that the enslaved benefitted from slavery because they learned skills. It’s the same reason they dance around the subject of slavery when discussing the Confederacy or the Civil War. How else could they plausibly claim America isn’t a racist country? How else could they justify it when they call for the Confederacy to be honored and celebrated through flags, monuments, paid holidays and school names?

But all the whitewashing in the world won’t change facts, and the fact is Shenandoah County, Virginia, voted to commemorate anti-Black violence, oppression and exploitation. There’s really no two ways about it.


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