Tag Archives: Charlottesville riot

Can this school board revisit a tough issue?

I haven’t seen every scrap of social media chatter bouncing around Amarillo, Texas during the past couple of days.

What I have seen regarding an Amarillo Independent School District board non-decision has been — shall we say — less than flattering toward most of the board members.

The AISD board voted 4-3 the other night to “change” the name of Robert E.  Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School.

I believe Amarillo has just witnessed the unveiling of a profile in timidity, if not outright cowardice.

The school in question sits smack in the middle of a community that serves a significant population of African-Americans. Children attend a school that is named after a man — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — who led a military effort to defeat the United States in a war that began over whether states could allow the ownership of slaves.

Gen. Lee’s name has been in the news of late. Communities have sought to remove statues commemorating this man who I and others consider to be a traitor to the United States of America. They rioted in Virginia because white supremacists, KKK’men and neo-Nazis protested attempts to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park; the riot killed a young woman and injured scores of others. Moreover, it prompted an intense national discussion about how we commemorate the Confederate States of America.

AISD board members agreed to discuss and consider changing the name of the school. Then they choked. They fumbled. They missed their chance to send a powerful statement that this community would take a proactive step that removes the name of a national enemy from one of its public buildings.

“Lee Elementary” does not do a single thing to promote that notion.

So … here’s a thought. The AISD board represents a constituency that appears to oppose the non-decision the board made on the naming of a public school.

Perhaps the AISD board members can reflect just a bit on the nutty notion they thought would eliminate a community controversy.

This so-called “name change” didn’t do anything of the kind.

There’s not a single thing wrong with acknowledging a mistake, AISD trustees. Nor is there anything wrong with taking measures to repairing it.

AISD chokes when given a chance to make a big statement

I had high hope that Amarillo’s elected school board of trustees would do the right thing when it decided to consider changing the name of one of their elementary schools.

Then a slim majority of the board dashed my hope. Sigh!

The Amarillo Independent School District board voted 4-3 to alter the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to, um, Lee Elementary School.

There had been considerable community chatter about a school that serves a large African-American student base carrying the name of a Confederate army general who led forces seeking to allow states to retain the enslavement of human beings.

Many of those voices came to the school board meeting Monday night to be heard. They spoke out. A large majority of the voices gathered in a packed AISD administration building meeting room spoke against “Robert E. Lee Elementary School.”

The non-decision by the AISD board is disappointing. It borders on shameful.

Trustee James Allen — the lone African-American on the board — had pitched a perfectly reasonable option: Change the name to Park Hills Elementary School, which would be consistent with AISD’s current building-naming policy of identifying schools with the community they serve.

Did the board follow Allen’s lead? Nope. They wanted to “compromise” by dropping the Confederate traitor, er, general’s first name and middle initial from the building’s name.

As if that would wipe away the connection between a local school and the darkest, bloodiest period in our nation’s history? Please.

The national discussion about these name changes had found its way to Amarillo. I hoped our community’s elected school board would take up the cudgel and declare that it, too, would stand on the right side of history.

Sadly, AISD did nothing of the sort. Its board choked.

I’m out!

This is proactive leadership? Hardly

Amarillo’s public school system governing board had a chance to do something courageous. Instead, in a 4-3 vote, it decided Monday night to take a significantly more timid path.

I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Amarillo Independent School District decided to remove “Robert E.” from the name of a school that carries the name of a Confederate States of America army general. Beginning with the 2018-19, the school formerly known as Robert E. Lee Elementary School will be known as Lee Elementary.

There. How does that go down?

AISD had decided to consider changing the name of the school in the wake of serious national discussion about whether Confederate figures should be memorialized at all. It all came to a nasty head this past summer in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists, Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis instigated a tragic riot when officials there wanted to remove a statue of Gen. Lee from a public park.

The debate found its way to Amarillo, where the school district is home to a school named after the same general. That school sits in the middle of a neighborhood comprising a significant African-American population.

Why the question? Well, Gen. Lee led an army against the United States of America during the Civil War. He fought to protect states’ right to allow the enslavement of human beings, who — I need to stipulate — were black Americans.

I favor removing Lee’s name from that public school building altogether. An AISD board majority feels differently.

Here is what Panhandle PBS posted on its Facebook page about AISD’s bizarre “compromise”:

Learn Here: Amarillo ISD’s board has voted 4-3 to drop “Robert E.” from the name to just Lee Elementary. Board members Jim Austin, Scott Flow, Cristy Wilkinson, and Renee McCown voted in favor of the partial name change, which was viewed as a “compromise” idea during the months of discussion. The motion was made by Cristy Wilkinson, and the change will go into effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Scott Flow seconded the motion.

James Allen, John Betancourt, and John Ben Blanchard voted against, wanting a complete name change after the surrounding neighborhood, Park Hills.

The vote came after an hour of public comment during which 25 people spoke on the issue, with only six in favor of keeping the name.

I am puzzled by this non-decision. How in the world does keeping the “Lee” on the building address the concerns of those who believe it somehow honors the name of a man who fought to destroy the United States — for the purpose of keeping human beings in bondage?

Did the slim school board majority conclude that hiding the full name of an enemy of the Union would somehow make it disappear all by itself?

I believe the AISD board of trustees has made a mistake.

Amarillo school may get an ID change

Amarillo public school officials are about to jump with both feet into a national debate over the naming of public buildings after Confederate icons.

At issue is the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School, which sits in the midst of the city’s African-American community.

Amarillo Independent School District trustees are going to discuss on Monday whether to change the name of the school.

My own preference? Change the name.

This entire Confederate name-change discussion erupted in the wake of that riot in Charlottesville, Va., when counter protesters clashed with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who gathered to protest the taking down of a statute of Gen. Lee.

The Amarillo NAACP chapter favors changing the name. No surprise there. NAACP chapter president Floyd Anthony says Gen. Lee’s name on a public building that serves a hugely African-American student body — and their parents — is a slap in the face to those residents.

He makes a good point.

Gen. Lee led the Confederate States of America army that fought against the United States of America. They committed an act of treason by seceding from the Union. Why did they secede? They fought to something called “states’ rights,” which was code for allowing states to continuing the enslavement of human beings.

They were black human beings.

The war killed 600,000 people. It was the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history.

More than 150 years later, the vestiges of that war remain with these public monuments to the men who stood foursquare against the Union.

And spare me the “heritage” argument. The Confederate battle flag has become the very symbol of hate groups such as the KKK. Do we want to honor the Klan? I think not.

To the Amarillo ISD board members, I wish them good luck as they ponder their potentially huge decision.

I hope it’s the correct one.

Retirement liberates GOP senator

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is a free man these days.

The Tennessee Republican has announced his impending retirement from the Senate — and is now free to speak his mind.

Take, for example, his statement this week about three of Donald Trump’s key advisers and how they manage to save the United States from the “chaos” created by the president.

He spoke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly. These men, said Corker, are managing to maintain some semblance of order.

Corker speaks out

Corker didn’t wait to announce his retirement before speaking candidly about Trump. After the president’s hideous reaction to the Charlottesville riot — including the “many sides are responsible” comment — Corker said the president “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to lead the nation.

Now this latest critique in which he said, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Oh, and of course we now have Tillerson reportedly firing off an enraged comment in a meeting that he believes the president is a “moron.” It’s also been reported that Tillerson attached a descriptive and profane adjective in front of “moron.” He has not denied saying it.

There you have it. A president with no prior government or public service experience of any kind is now leading the world’s greatest nation. Except that he’s incapable of exhibiting the temperament he needs to avoid the “chaos” that he invites whenever and wherever possible.

Trump’s fans applaud him for “telling it like it is.” Now such much-needed candor and honesty are coming from the mouths of the president’s “allies.”

Retirement can be a liberating experience … don’t you think?

Wondering about POTUS’s stated anger at NFL players

Donald J. Trump stood before an Alabama political rally crowd and called professional players “sons of b******” if they don’t stand while they play the National Anthem at the start of a game.

He got big cheers. He lapped it up.

But when white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen marched in Charlottesville, Va., provoking a conflict earlier this year with counter protestors, he said “both sides” were responsible for the violence and that “very fine people” were among those who marched with the KKK, Nazis and white supremacists.

He talked in Alabama this weekend about “disrespecting” Old Glory and “The Star Spangled Banner.” He didn’t talk at all about flying the Confederate flag — which is an enduring symbol of a 19th-century movement to destroy the United States of America.

Trump talks about standing up for our democratic principles. But he hasn’t yet condemned the Russians for hacking into our electoral process — a virtual “act of war” against those very principles he now defends against professional athletes who are protesting police policies as they relate to African-American citizens.

It needs to be said that the bulk of the protests over the Anthem are coming from African-American athletes.

The president of the United States then calls them “sons of b******” because they are engaging in a peaceful protest of a government policy.

Is this argument being waged along racial lines? Donald Trump today said “no!” He said he’s never raised the issue of race. It’s about respecting the symbols of our “great country.”

Someone will have to explain to me in language I can understand just how all of this is not related to the racial makeup of those who are protesting.

Gen. Kelly needs a poker face

I continue to be a fan of White House chief of staff John Kelly.

He’s seeking to bring some discipline and order to the White House while trying to instruct the Oval Office occupant, Donald J. Trump, on how to act in a manner befitting his exalted title: president of the United States of America.

The former Marine four-star general, though, needs to develop a poker face when he’s forced to watch the president make an ass of himself on the world stage.

There he was at the United Nations this week, listening to the president talk about the “total destruction” of North Korea. Yes, Trump said that while speaking in the forum established in 1945 for the expressed purpose of finding peaceful solutions to international crises.

Gen. Kelly put his hand over his face. The question becomes: Was he mortified at what he was hearing? We don’t know, of course. He won’t say. The White House press operation said Kelly wasn’t reacting to anything in particular.

His reaction was somewhat similar to the body language he “spoke” while listening to the president refer to “both sides” being responsible for the Charlottesville, Va., riot that left a young counter protester dead after she was run over by a man with alleged ties to the white supremacists who provoked the riot in the first place.

Then again, we don’t know what Kelly was thinking at that time, either.

My point is that Kelly would do better for himself if he just sat there stoically without prompting observers all around the world to interpret body language messages.

Absent that kind of self-discipline, we are left to wonder out loud if he’s as disgusted at the boss as many of the rest of us.

Glad to see Confederate debate arrive

I am delighted to see that Amarillo, Texas — my current city of residence — has entered a serious debate that many other communities have already joined.

How do we remember those who fought for the Confederate States of America? Should we remember them? Should we forsake them?

This is an important discussion that erupted in August as a riot ensued in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis marched to protest a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. Counter protesters emerged to challenge the first group. A young woman was killed when she was run over by a car allegedly driven by a young man with white supremacists sympathies.

The debate hasn’t really let up since.

Now it’s arrived in Amarillo. On Monday, the Amarillo public school system is going to discuss whether to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School. The Robert E. Lee school situation presents an amazing irony, given that the school is located in a historically black neighborhood. Think of that for a moment: That school is named to honor a man who fought to destroy the United States. And for what purpose? To preserve the enslavement of black Americans!

There’s more discussion about the status of a Confederate soldier statue at Ellwood Park.

A pro-Confederate advocate is urging the City Council to “leave history alone.”

I come at this from a different angle. I am a transplant who chose to move to Amarillo in early 1995. My wife and I came here from Beaumont, Texas, where we lived for nearly 11 years prior to moving to the Panhandle. Indeed, we have witnessed our fair share of racial strife since we moved to Texas in 1984 from Oregon, where I was born and where my wife lived for many years.

Do we honor traitors?

I see the Confederacy as an aftertaste of the nation’s bloodiest armed conflict. The Civil War killed more than 600,000 Americans. Why did they fight? The Confederacy came into being as a protest against federal policy that the Confederate States believed interfered with their own right of self-determination.

Let’s not be coy about what those states wanted to preserve: One of their goals was to maintain slavery.

They separated from the United States of America and then went to war. Where I come from, I consider that an act of treason.

Is that the history we want to preserve? Is that what we honor?

I don’t have any particular concern about those who plaster Confederate flags on their bumpers or fly the Stars and Bars from their car radio antennae. That’s their call. Do I question why they do these things? Sure, but I don’t obsess over it.

Putting these symbols, though, on public property — be they parks or public schools — is another matter.

Preserving and honoring history is fine. I’m all for it. The Civil War, though, represents a dark and grim chapter in our nation’s history that should be remembered, studied and discussed. But do we honor that time? That’s why we have historical museums. We’ve got a damn fine historical museum in Canyon, at the West Texas A&M University campus.

So, let’s have this discussion in Amarillo about the Confederacy. Keep it civil and high-minded.

Where has Dick Cheney been hiding?

Paging the former vice president of the United States, Richard Bruce Cheney!

You might recall — as I do — that Dick Cheney was a vocal, frequent and occasionally obnoxious critic of President Barack H. Obama. Yes, throughout Obama’s two terms as president, Cheney was making himself available on TV and radio talk shows to tell us how the president was endangering the nation, that he was the “worst foreign policy president” in U.S. history.

So, Obama leaves office. Donald John Trump Sr. takes over. Trump has made a mess of a lot of things.

The Russia matter? Allegations of collusion with the Russians? North Korea? Declaring that an aircraft battle group was steaming toward Korea when it actually was traveling in precisely the opposite direction, from Australia into the Indian Ocean?

Then we have the domestic stuff: Charlottesville and the president’s seeming cozying up to Nazis and Klansmen; the transgender ban in the U.S. military.

Where is Cheney? Mr. Vice President, have you nothing at all to say about the new president? You were pretty damn quick on the verbal trigger when Barack Obama was the man in charge.

It’s not that I necessarily want to hear what the former vice president has to say. It’s just that the current political debate seems so quiet without his voice.

POTUS ‘speaks for himself’

Those who like to parse the words that come from public officials have been handed a serious bit of homework to ponder.

It comes from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who offered up a potentially provocative assertion on a Sunday news/talk show.

Tillerson was interviewed by “Fox News Sunday” moderator Chris Wallace and the discussion turned to the Charlottesville, Va., riot and Donald J. Trump’s various responses to the tragic event.

According to Politico: “Tillerson said Sunday that the nation’s commitment to combating discrimination should be without question.

“’We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people, we represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over and that message has never changed,’ Tillerson said. ‘I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.’”

Wallace then asked: “And the president’s values?” To which Tillerson answered: “The president speaks for himself, Chris.”

“Are you separating yourself from that, sir?” Wallace asked.

“I’ve spoken — I’ve made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week,” Tillerson said.

Well …

If I were a betting man — and if I were in the business of reading someone’s mind — I might suggest that the secretary of state has just put some distance between himself and the tirade that poured forth from the president of the United States with regard to Charlottesville.

I also might wonder if the clock has just started ticking on Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department.