The name change game for Virginia’s community colleges

Changing the names won't end the shame of racism. It remains among us, which is why Critical Race Theory is so important

John Tyler Community College in Virginia has decided to have nothing more to do with the 10th President of the United States because of his racist support of slavery and the treasonous acts of the Confederacy. The Chester school is now Brightpoint Community College.

Same fate or Thomas Nelson Community College in James City County in Virginia’s Peninsula area of the Old Dominion. It is becoming Peninsula Community College to rid itself of any association with a man who signed the Declaration of Independence and “owned” slaves until the federal government, under orders of President Abraham Lincoln before his assassination, abolished enslaving any human being in this nation.

Add Lord Fairfax to the list. It is now Laurel Ridge Community College.

Patrick Henry Community College amended its name to Patrick & Henry to recognize the names of the two counties where most of its student reside.

“We enroll lots of people whose ancestors were enslaved, were marginalized, were clearly taken advantage of,” says Virginia Community College Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “What do you say to those students when they’re looking at some of these names.”

This kind of common sense and commitment to the community does not sit well to the racism espoused by Virginia Republicans.

“This decision is a direct response to the ‘cancel culture’ movement, which look to reject people and ideas that do not fit under politically correct narrative,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Good (R) in a bitter letter to DuBois. “Efforts such as these encourage an endless cycle of renaming institutions, buildings, and cities across the country under the ruse of political wokeness.”

Good’s comments, of course, are political BS, something he is very adept at spouting, like verbal diarrhea. No one is removing the name of George Wallace, a stalwart racist as governor and as candidate for president. Wallace later renounced those views. John Tyler, Thomas Nelson and Thomas Fairfax went to their graves still supporting slavery.

But John Rainone, president of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, initially urged the board to keep the name, even after some in the community felt he was supported racism as president of Longwood College in Farmville, where Prince Edward County closed public schools, rather than integrate, and opened an all-white “private school” supported by the county’s government and its prominent tobacco-rich residents. Then a researcher found Lancaster has been a national officer of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America, a white supremacist group.

Rainone and the board changed their tune.

“With this new information, we felt there was no question,” he said. The state board agreed, the search for a new name started in July until it was narrowed to three : Headwaters Community College, Mountain River Community College or Mountain Gateway Community College. The choice will be unveiled on Oct. 18.

“This new name, it really will bring us to a new place,” says Rainone, who added that everyone must feel welcome. “Even if one student questions the college’s inclusiveness because of the college’s name, then I feel like we have not done our job to meet that student’s needs.”

The names of some schools have changed, along with some public schools, and statues of Robert E Lee and other traitors of the Confederacy have been removed, but we still see too much inbred racism from the blowhards who disrupt public comment periods at the school board and seek office on local boards and councils.

Displaying patriotism or racist treason?

We see racism on the street every day in Floyd County, with large flags of the Confederacy flying from the beds of pickup trucks and racial slurs on bumper stickers. Some of our candidates embrace the racism of Donald Trump, fined many times for racial crimes at hi real-estate investments, and who openly encouraged support from white supremacists and racists.

They decry critical race theory even though they are lurid examples of that very theory — that racism is inbred in American and growing. The National Education Association says “The core idea of Critical Race Theory is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

Notes Education Week:

The topic has exploded in the public arena this spring—especially in K-12, where numerous state legislatures are debating bills seeking to ban its use in the classroom.

In truth, the divides are not nearly as neat as they may seem. The events of the last decade have increased public awareness about things like housing segregation, the impacts of criminal justice policy in the 1990s, and the legacy of enslavement on Black Americans. But there is much less consensus on what the government’s role should be in righting these past wrongs. Add children and schooling into the mix and the debate becomes especially volatile.

–Education Week

I saw Critical Race Theory at work in Prince Edward County as an elementary school student forced to attend an all-white private schools after the racist school board and Board of Supervisors closed the public school to avoid integration.

Sadly, we see it at work around us today, as too many with racial biases are demanding the schools here not teach Critical Race Theory. In my opinion, as one who has reported on and fought racism in Virginia and throughout the nation for more than 60 years, it still sexists in Floyd County and Southwestern Virginia. Even worse, it appears to be growing.

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