Standing up to the legacy of slavery and the confederacy isn't just happening in the South. Many miles away in San Rafael, CA, a battle is underway over a school district named "Dixie." Some members of the community are demanding it be renamed.
A Dixie School District bus waits in the parking lot of Dixie Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif., on Jan. 29. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)
"Debate over the name of this 2,000-student district north of San Francisco has become increasingly bitter during the past six months," reports the Washington Post, "with both sides attacking each other on social media and at public hearings." Earlier this week, after another five hour meeting that ended without a resolution, members decided that they would vote on new names submitted via petitions the week of April 15th.
Marnie Glickman, a member of the school board and a leader of the effort to change the name, told the Washington Post that she is frustrated by all the delays. "'This is a decision that’s been before us for 22 years,' Glickman said."
African American parents and residents have made their views on the issue clear. Ruby Sullivan Wilson is one of them. She began urging local leaders to change the name in the 1970s.
“When the ‘Keep Dixie Dixie’ signs went up, it was such a kick in the gut,” Tni Newhoff, a parent of two children in the district, told the Washington Post. “It was like, ‘We know this hurts you, but we don’t care and we’re gonna throw up signs to let you know.
Your desire for inclusion doesn’t matter to us.’”
The battle over the renaming of the school district has gone on so long this round that both sides in the debate have websites staking out their positions. The pro-"Change the Name" website asserts that the 150-year-old district was named after the Confederacy and that the name is offensive. The anti-name change "We Are Dixie" website contends that it was named after Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian who lived in Vallecito and is something to be proud of. The historical record indicates the name was given to the District in 1864 by a group of Southern sympathizers.
Glickman also has personal reasons for wanting the issue to be resolved. Last month, she received an unsigned, threatening letter containing anti-Semitic language. The Marin Independent Journal (MIJ) reported:
In addition to slurs, obscenities and misspellings, the brief letter includes a mortal threat in that it asserts that “Hitler was right about you Jews,” an allusion to the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were killed. Hate crimes involving anti-Semitism have been occurring more frequently in Marin, the nation and the world in recent months — the most heinous being the murders of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall.
“I never thought I would receive a letter like this in Marin County in 2019,” Glickman said in an email [to the paper]. “I feel afraid for my safety and my family’s safety.
“Hate is poisonous,” she added. “Hate can be contagious and deadly. Ask the people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
Glickman forwarded the letter to her four fellow members of the school board and received concerned emails back from only two of them. “As a board, we are unified in condemning any racist remarks and threatening language toward any community member,” Board of Trustees President Brad Honsberger wrote in an email to the MIJ. “We do not want to draw further media attention to hate and bullying behaviors."
In a statement, the "We Are Dixie" group — which advocates for recalling Glickman from the board for her "personal political agenda" — wrote, "We Are Dixie does not condone any such behavior from an individual. Many members of our community are Jewish as well as members of We Are Dixie. If this letter is authentic and not something that was fabricated to get press, then it is abhorrent behavior that we absolutely condemn. If this letter is real, we doubt it came from anyone in our community.”
This Saturday, "Change the Name" is holding a silent march departing from the Dixie Elementary School, 1175 Idylberry Road, San Rafael, CA at 9 am sharp and ending at Old Dixie Schoolhouse Museum, 2255 Las Gallinas Ave. They ask that participants wear white or black clothing. The length of the parade is two miles downhill on sidewalks. According to their website, the first silent parade was held in New York City in 1917 to protest violence against African Americans. It was the first mass demonstration by African Americans in the United States.
Click this link to find out more about the Silent March and other action you can take to support the name change.
Homepage slider image from SF Chronicle.