Lorena Gonzalez (at lectern) thought filing a request to change the name of the school would be a "no-brainer."
  • Lorena Gonzalez (at lectern) thought filing a request to change the name of the school would be a "no-brainer."
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California assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez joined the San Diego chapter of the National Action Network and the San Diego Black Police Officers' Association on Wednesday afternoon (December 2) to call for a name change to Robert E. Lee Elementary in Paradise Hills. A community meeting to discuss the proposal, the second to be held, was scheduled to happen later in the evening.

"When community members came to me and said, 'Can you believe we have a school named Robert E. Lee?' I didn't know," Gonzalez told media assembled at City of Grace Church in Lemon Grove. "We don't expect the namesakes of our schools to be perfect. But we do expect the defining moment in their life is something that we can look up to. But the defining moment in Lee's life was the decision to take on the United States so that millions of African Americans could remain enslaved in the name of states' rights."

Gonzalez said she'd anticipated filing a request to change the name of the school would be a "no-brainer" — she was dismayed at the yearlong process that ensued.

"I had no idea that we'd be fighting a school district in the name of process to have a popular vote. The district didn't have a popular vote when they decided to eliminate meat on Mondays."

Shane Harris (center)

Shane Harris (center)

National Action Network chapter president Shane Harris promised rallies involving "several hundred" protesters descending on San Diego Unified School District and possible action from national network leader Al Sharpton if action isn't promptly taken.

"We know the history of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who clearly doesn't articulate the community of Paradise Hills," Harris said. "We will see the name change, or else we're coming for you. We will rally, we will do whatever we have to in order to ensure that the change happens."

Ben Kelso of the Black Police Officers' Association suggested the school instead be named after Archie Buggs, a former officer who grew up in Paradise Hills and was killed in 1978 while conducting a traffic stop near the school.

"This is not about revising history but about correcting mistakes," Kelso said, echoing Gonzalez's sentiment that Lee's acts of war against the U.S. make his name an odd choice, particularly in a school christened in 1959, nearly a century after the Civil War and in the midst of the civil rights movement.

"The Confederate states were effectively a foreign nation conducting war upon us,” said Kelso. “In 50 years, will be celebrating Osama bin Laden with a school in the United States?"

The community meeting, held later Wednesday evening, pitted students — a majority of current third- through fifth-graders are in favor of a name change — against adults in the community, many of whom felt the name should live on out of a sense of tradition. Some were insulted by what they saw as an intrusion from outside the community.

But "it's beyond a process, beyond a survey. It's time to change the name of this school," Gonzalez concluded. "I can't imagine any black child having to attend a school with the namesake of somebody who hoped that their ancestors would stay enslaved."

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Comments

boemac Dec. 3, 2015 @ 12:14 p.m.

Another great way to pass away money. How about fixig my street next. We need more space on the street for parking boats and campers too. I spelled pass wrong too.

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Bob_Hudson Dec. 3, 2015 @ 1:40 p.m.

Do we have schools named after these US Presidents who owned slaves?

Here's how many slaves each owned:

George Washington 250-350 Thomas Jefferson 200 James Madison 100+ James Monroe 75

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dwbat Dec. 3, 2015 @ 3:55 p.m.

Schools named after President Andrew ("Trail of Tears") Jackson should also be renamed. Jackson was not only a slave owner, but fostered the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Native Americans. His policies were genocidal, and reprehensible.

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Visduh Dec. 3, 2015 @ 5:05 p.m.

When traveling in the South, and especially in Virginia, it does get tiresome to see the name Lee attached to all sorts of things. In fact, a radio station in Richmond had the call letters WLEE, and I'll bet it still does. But there's a facet to history that these folks may not fully grasp, and if they can read Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address they might get some of the idea from that. At the end of the Civil War there was an attempt of sorts at reconciliation, and an acceptance that in spite of all the bloodshed and destruction, the victors and vanquished were still going to have to see themselves as Americans. In order to avoid keeping much of the enmity alive, certain things were done to reconcile. You might think of it as being ecumenical about the relations. And so the South was allowed to celebrate its heroes. The US did not look upon the Confederacy as a "foreign nation making war", but as a sort of aberration that was corrected. That's how/why some partisans of the southern way of life would have wanted a school named for the beloved (in the South) Robert E. Lee. If the name were to be changed to something else, perhaps Lee's great foe and savior of the nation, U. S. Grant could be so honored. Oops, SDUSD already has a Grant school. How about Grant's great second-in-command, Sherman? Uh, there's a school already named for him, too.

Should Archie Buggs have a school named in his honor? Certainly. But does it have to come about this way?

Finally, Harris' comment of "We will see the name change, or else we're coming for you" could be seen as a threat to the school board, or at least an attempt at intimidation. I wonder if some board members might be considering a request for a restraining order. That sort of language isn't what the city or the schools need in their debate of the question.

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publicgood Dec. 4, 2015 @ 1:51 p.m.

I also believe in reconciliation, but I believe it should be done as it has been done in South Africa--as part of a "truth and reconciliation" process. We've been missing the "truth" part of the process for one hundred and fifty years. I submit that Lincoln might have come to a new understanding of "reconciliation" if he had survived John Wilkes Booth's bullet. Booth was acting on behalf of Southerners who did not want reconciliation at all; they instead wanted to kill Lincoln so he would be replaced by his South-supporting vice-president. Andrew Johnson reneged on the "40 acres and a mule" that each freed slave had been promised. It seems to me that many confederate sympathizers are still trying to win the Civil War. It's time we removed the Confederacy from a position of honor. It should be in the history books, but children should not be taught that confederate goals are honorable goals in today's society.

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RookBeyer Dec. 3, 2015 @ 5:48 p.m.

I agree that Lorena Gonzalez is a pandering politician and deserves very little respect. The offense of using a traitor's name on the school is an offense against everyone, not just certain children. We should not name schools or in any other way honor the Civil War traitors or slaveholders or genocidal racists like those mentioned by Visduh. Correcting these mistakes is a good thing to do because it demonstrates our commitment to elevating everyone by rejecting those whose actions are so despicable to our principles of freedom and equality.

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AlexClarke Dec. 4, 2015 @ 5:52 a.m.

Bob and dwbat: Confusing people with the facts are we?

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dwbat Dec. 4, 2015 @ 7:12 a.m.

I can't speak for Bob. My facts about Andrew Jackson are accurate.

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boemac Dec. 4, 2015 @ 8:14 a.m.

Lets change Gonzalez name to ex- assemblymember. What a waste of air.

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publicgood Dec. 4, 2015 @ 12:27 p.m.

Like Gonzalez, I "can't imagine any black child having to attend a school with the namesake of somebody who hoped that their ancestors would stay enslaved." I also can't imagine any white or brown child having to attend such a school.

It should be noted that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe never took up arms against the United States. In the early days of the United States, they may have participated in the shameful institution of slavery, but when the time came to get rid of that stain on our national honor, it was Robert E. Lee and his associates who went so far as to kill Americans in their desperate attempt to prevent progress. Hundreds of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers died in the most deadly war in our history.

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boemac Dec. 4, 2015 @ 1:08 p.m.

publicgood, it's time you find your imagination. You and the other left wing bleeding hearts need to understand the real world and your world are not the same. Grow up!

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publicgood Dec. 4, 2015 @ 1:52 p.m.

Are you talking about the "real" world where Donald Trump becomes President of the United States? Dream on, Boemac.

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