Open Letter to School Boards Everywhere: Stop Renaming Your Schools After Obama

Open Letter to School Boards Everywhere: Stop Renaming Your Schools After Obama

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Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology in Panthersville, GA ( Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

It was bad enough that pretty much within seconds of Barack Obama winning the presidency there seemed to be a rush to rename schools to honor the newly elected first black president. According to Wikipedia, eighteen schools in fourteen states have so far been named or renamed in honor of the 44th president. According to another Wikipedia article (which is incomplete and out-of-date) Obama already has enough schools named after him to rival John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson.

The latest school to jump on the Obama bandwagon is the J. E. B. Stuart Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. This week, the school board voted 6-1 to rename the predominantly African-American school named after a Confederate general Barack Obama Elementary School.

When the school board first voted to rename the school, seven options were up for consideration, five of which were named for people. Of the five people considered, all but Obama were local figures, including Oliver Hill, a civil rights attorney who played a significant role in ending “separate but equal”; Barbara Johns, a civil rights leader; Albert Norrell, a long-time educator from a family of educators in Richmond for over a century; and Henry Marsh, another civil rights leader and the first African-American mayor of Richmond. Anyone of these would have been a more fitting and deserving individual to have a school named after them. This community clearly values the contributions of civil rights leaders who have had a positive impact on African-Americans, yet they honored a man whose “positive” impact on African-Americans is largely symbolic, and whose actual impact has been negative. In fact, Barack Obama was perhaps the worst president for African-Americans since Lyndon B. Johnson.

Obama’s election had been seen as a watershed moment in our nation’s history—a post-racial America is what his admirers said we’d have if he was elected. But, a majority of Americans recognize that despite Obama being the first black president, race relations took a huge step back on his watch. Instead of being a symbol of empowerment of black America, Obama reinforced racial animus by supporting Black Lives Matter, selectively enforcing laws on a racial basis, and by often falsely assuming racial motives in high-profile cases of police being accused of excessive force. By doing this, Obama deliberately exacerbated tensions between black communities and law enforcement, causing a huge spike in cop killings.

The Obama economy wasn’t easy for America, but it was disproportionately more difficult for black Americans. The Obama “recovery” was the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression but black Americans saw an even slower recovery than the country as a whole. The Trump economy has done more to lift black America than the Obama economy ever did.


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