A history teacher at (Woodrow) Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon is demanding that the school change its name.
Hyung Nam tweeted “(Expletive) Wilson and any school he’s named after” noting an article in Politico that discussed the former president’s screening of the infamous film Birth of a Nation.
To be fair, Nam didn’t jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, during the furor over the Confederate flag. He’s been critical of his school’s name since the spring: “We’d have to be ignorant about history to continue to affiliate ourselves with this man,” he emailed the school’s staff back in April.
[Nam] has interested a few students in his cause.
Maddy VanSpeybroeck is an incoming junior and co-founder of the WHS Feminist Student Union.
“The idea of our schools being named after a person with these ideals just doesn’t sit right with a lot of people,” VanSpeybroeck says, “Especially as feminist ideals and racial ideals are becoming more something our nation is talking about right now.”
She says the effort has encountered “school spirit-related” and budget-related concerns, such as the cost to modify signage and sports uniforms.
“I definitely hear what they are saying, but there are always going to be roadblocks and budget issues, and you just have to prioritize your morals over those kinds of things,” VanSpeybroeck says.
As an example of an alternative, VanSpeybroeck says the students like the idea of a woman of color, such as Ida B. Wells, a political figure who was born a slave in 1862.
Kendall Berry, co-founder of the WHS’s new Black Student Union and a recent Young, Gifted and Black honoree, also is supportive of the effort, which has taken a break until school gets back in session.
Berry says he wanted to start the Black Student Union after attending a party with Jefferson High School BSU President Sekai Edwards where the n-word was thrown around. He says he thinks the conversation to change the name of the school has already changed the tone in history classes, with students mocking the former president.
Wait, what was that — Jefferson High School? I’m surprised Sekai isn’t concerned about his school’s moniker.
(Portland) District spokeswoman Christine Miles said that she didn’t think “anybody took that [Nam’s tweet] seriously” because of his profanity, and dubbed the tweet “inappropriate.”
She added that “the process to change a school’s name would have to involve a lot of community outreach and support.”
Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University says that “Wilson should be at the top of the list of any effort to rename government buildings.”
“Truthfully, he was a bad guy, but that’s not the reason I’m saying this. I’m doing it because he held very, very repugnant views and he acted on them. It’s very difficult to see how one would honor that,” he said.