Robert E. Lee Elementary, as a newly built school, was dedicated in honor of the Confederate General as part of a four-day-long Reunion of Confederate Veterans that happened in Tulsa in September 1918.
Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with a board member who voted in favor of keeping the name out of respect for the individuals who live in the Lee District. It was one of the best conversations I have ever had in my life. We approached one another as human beings. I sat at a table across from an American who looked different from me and allowed myself to become vulnerable with the hope of reaching the heart.
President Suzanne Schreiber doesn’t care about how black Tulsans feel, and her vote proves that.
The ramifications in allowing the name of a person who protected and promoted white supremacy, white power, a Ku Klux Klan mentality, and Nazism — all racist ideologies at their core the same — to remain on the side of a public school building is detrimental to race relations for the city and the nation.
The SPLC’s report chronicles the timeline of the namings and finds that there are two distinct time periods wherein these schools were named. The first was during the rise of Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws throughout the south and at the time of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Greenwood. The second was immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision of Brown v. Board.
OPINION BY | Nehemiah D. Frank
Let us be frank: renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary School “Lee School” is a lash on the back of every African-American student attending a Tulsa public school, which is alarming considering 25 percent of TPS’ total student population is composed of African-American pupils.
TPS may as well remount the “No Colored” signs and command all the Negro students, Negro teachers, and Negro staff to ignore the symbol that acknowledges, values, and promotes white superiority in a 21st-century integrated educational setting.
Since last Saturday’s racialized attacks in Charlottesville, a petition calling for the name change has collected over 4,000 signatures.