Congratulations! Jacksonville is now a safe space for snowflake protesters.
The Duval County School Board is purging the district of six Confederate school names, including the storied Robert E. Lee High School.
Instead of references to Southern history, the schools in question will bear bland, “inoffensive” names, such as, Anchor, Charger, Westside, Springfield, Riverside, and Hidden Oaks –effective August 3rd. Gone are all allusions to our geographic ethnicity. We are now Whatever School District in Anywhere USA.
However, contrary to popular belief, everything isn’t going to be hunky dory. There will be no Nirvana of political harmony. The School Board members are going to learn some hard truths about culture wars.
1. There’s no such thing as an unassailable name. On August 3rd, Lee becomes Riverside High School, but wait until the identity-politics crowd realizes they’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire!
The Riverside neighborhood slowly developed on former plantation land after the Civil War. By the early Twentieth Century, it featured riverfront mansions for rich whites and interior bungalow houses for whites “of modest means.” Black residents were relegated to a small section called Silvertown, which was roughly bounded by Gilmore Street to the north, King Street to the west, and Green Street to the south.
Well, imagine that! Riverside is supposed to be this generic, innocent little name that offends no one, but in reality, it conjures up the ghosts of elitism and segregation. Black slaves worked on Dell’s Bluff plantation, but later were only allowed to live on a small part of it. Riverside is the real Jim Crow 2.0. When you think about it, the new name is way more problematic than Robert E. Lee ever was.
2. Agitators will keep moving the goal posts. Things are really going to get ugly. If you think the social justice warriors are going to be happy with the name changes, think again. There are going to be fights over Marxism, anti-racism, and Critical Race Theory, for starters.
That’s the trouble with these activists. They’re addicted to protesting for protesting’s sake. Giving in only emboldens them. In the future, Duval County Public Schools will be mired in distractions that won’t improve education one iota.
3. The bill will come due. The School Board can issue all the low-ball estimates it wants, but in reality, the six school name-changes are going to cost over a million dollars –money the district doesn’t have.
Yeah, Nike, the Jaguars, and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) have pledged to chip in, but the district will still be on the hook for about 70% of the total cost. That’s money that could have directly benefited students, but it never will, because we have to spend it on window dressing.
4. There’s no such thing as a “healing process.” Board member Warren Jones wanted “to heal a city that is fractured,” and Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene believed the community would “come together and heal through this process…”
Heal? You’d think someone had hit them side the head. That’s such a political cliché –and it never happens. It’s been seven years since Forrest High School was changed to Westside, and the alumni are still seething –seething– over that decision.
Note to leaders: Quit trying to “heal” us. Culture wars just breed resentment and divide the community, and that bitterness has political consequences down the line. The administrators would do well to dust off their résumés. They might need them, when the voters start firing them.
5. Confederate symbols will become forbidden fruit. Rabble rousers go out of their way to strictly enforce leftist orthodoxy, but the day will come when all this cultural repression backfires. People will eventually be drawn to the Civil War history Marxists are trying to erase.
There’s a joke in publishing: If you can get your book banned by anyone, you’ll have a bestseller on your hands! Readers naturally want to know what all the fuss is about.
6. Sometimes, the unthinkable happens. We have that annoying obstacle to the restoration of Robert E. Lee High School’s name: Present Board policy prohibits naming or renaming a school after a person, but in politics, never say never. Future school boards will feel hamstrung by boring, communist-style naming options that sometimes turn out to be worse than historic figures.
So, to the lovers of Lee’s name, I say, “Think long term.” In 1999, Nigel Farage, representing South East England, announced to the European Parliament that he intended to campaign for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU) –and many Parliament members laughed at him. They thought he was crazy. They said it would never, ever happen.
Then, in 2016, against all expectations, Britain voted for Brexit. This inspired Farage to give some victory remarks to an incredulous European Parliament, which could hardly contain itself. “Isn’t it funny?” he said. “You know, when I came here seventeen years ago, and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?”
Here is Mr. Farage’s funny six-minute speech, complete with the apoplectic reactions of some of the European Parliament members:
7. This, too, shall pass. Yes, it’s difficult to imagine a political future, with all this “wokeism” sweeping the country and destroying our historic symbols, but when all seems hopeless, I think back to the late 60s and early 70s, when I was in elementary school.
I was too young to understand the whole hippie movement, but I do remember the graffiti. In Avondale, it was bad. It was all over the creek bridges. It would even show up on the streets. The illegal fraternities and sororities were big contributors to that vandalism.
In an amusing twist, the message GET NAKED appeared on several telephone poles. Thinking back, painting that over and over must have been hard work. Unfortunately, all that graffiti gave the neighborhood a run-down and out-of-control look.
Now, all that nonsense is gone. The Southern pride in public architecture reasserted itself. Neighborhood preservation became a thing. Every once in a while, there’s a tag here and there, but it has never returned to what it was. The traditionalists won that war.
So, there you have it. Things will get worse, but then, they’ll get better. In the future, everyone will think today’s history destroyers were crazy. It will be just like our bewildered reaction to the hippies: What were they thinking? What were they doing? What in tarnation were they wearing?
Therefore, in light of our unsung victory over graffiti, as well as the ebb and flow of politics, it isn’t so heretical and outlandish to make a prediction: One day, Lee High will rise again.
Silvertown / Riverside map
Le Baron, J. Francis. City of Jacksonville, Duval Co. Map detail. Board of Trade of Jacksonville, Fla., 1887.
Byers, M. Scott., cartoonist. “Two Views: Critical Race Theory Threatens What King Achieved.” Editorial by Richard A. Johnson III. Austin American-Statesman, 18 Jan 2021.
Minnelli, Liza (left) and Joel Gray, actor-singers. “Money, Money.” Cabaret. Musical film still. Dir. Bob Fosse. Allied Artists, 1972.
Forrest High School
Associated Press (AP). “Florida High School at Last Breaks Ties with Confederate Past.” Nathan Bedford Forrest High School Front Entrance. Jacksonville, FL. Tampa Bay Times, 17 Dec 2013.
The General Lee
Bach, Catherine (Daisy / car top), Tom Wopat (Bo / left), and John Schneider (Luke), actors. The Dukes of Hazzard. Action-comedy TV series. 1969 orange Dodge Charger. Publicity shot. Warner Bros. Television, 1979-85.
Blue and Gray Yearbook
Robert E. Lee High School. Blue and Gray. Annual. Jacksonville, FL., 1950.
Annie Lytle Graffiti
Bulit, David, photographer. Untitled. Graffiti-covered stairwell of Annie Lytle Elementary School. Abandoned Florida. Public School Number Four 1891-1960. Formerly Riverside Grammar School. Building condemned 1971. https://www.abandonedfl.com/annie-lytle-elementary-school/, 2014.
Robert E. Lee
Vannerson, Julian, photographer. “Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Officer of the Confederate Army.” Civil War Photographs 1861-1865. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress, Mar 1864.