All over the nation, we are seeing a somewhat scary but also ridiculous trend taking place. Since the unfortunate death of George Floyd in May of last year, there has been a massive movement to cancel and get rid of anything that could even remotely be associated with racism, whiteness, or apparently American history.
Statues and monuments have been toppled, mascots and flags are being changed, and businesses and roads are being renamed.
And nowhere does this seem more prevalent than in liberally held cities like that of Portland, Oregon.
Here, a local high school was renamed just a few months ago. Formerly known as Woodrow Wilson High School, the school now goes by the name of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School, as someone decided that as a former president and one who was white, Wilson no longer deserved such an honor.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, on the other hand, was a woman and one of color, as well as a co-founder of the NAACP. Clearly, she checks all the right boxes…
But that’s not the most ridiculous part of this – not by a long shot.
With the coming of a new name, the school board determined that it might also be time to change out the school’s mascot, a Trojan. While it doesn’t necessarily have ties to whiteness or racism, as it is essentially a mythical creation found in Homer’s Iliad, it apparently didn’t do enough to represent the mission of the left-leaning school board.
So what will the new mascot be?
Well, that hasn’t been fully decided just yet.
The school board was all set to vote and name “the Evergreens” as their new mascot as of Tuesday, March 30, during a Portland Public School Board of Education meeting.
As teacher Ellen Whatmore, who is on the renaming committee for the school, read during the meeting, “Evergreens are characterized by the life-giving force of their foliage, the strength of their massive trunk, and the depth of their roots – in an individual tree and as a forest of trees. They provide shelter and sustenance. They have histories that preclude us and will continue in perpetuity after we are no more.”
It also seems a fitting mascot for a school located in the Pacific Northwest, where much of the mountainous and coastal landscape is thickly inhabited by evergreens of various kinds.
However, at the very last moment, right before the vote, a voice spoke out with a concern about making a tree, something that lynchings used to take place in, as a school mascot.
As The Portland Tribune reported, “Just before the Portland Public Schools Board of Education’s vote to approve the new mascot Tuesday, March 30, Director Michelle DePass shared community concerns of an unwanted correlation between Ida B. Wells – the historic Black activist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who documented and crusaded against lynching – and a tree which could conjure up reminders of hanging people with ropes from branches.”
Now, you and I both know full well that “evergreens” were not precisely the tree of choice for lynchings. There are simply far too many branches in most cases, even for the more southern growing pines.
And more than one individual pointed this out. Martin Osborne, an African American on the renaming committee, said, “Lynching trees typically are not evergreens,” and added that they “had nothing to do with the horrible history of lynching in the United States.”
But the school board decided to delay the vote until the next meeting nonetheless.
Nationally-known civil rights attorney Leo Terrell thinks the whole thing is absurd.
As he remarked on the subject recently, “I’ve been a civil rights attorney for 30 years. I taught history for seven years. I’ve never had a client complain that a tree (of any kind) is racist. I’ve never had a case that deals with a tree being racist. It devalues true racism in this country. The idea of a tree having some participation in racist activity – there’s no data, there’s no analogy, there’s not historical, analytical approach to such a conclusion.”
In other words, there is nothing, anywhere, that suggests this “concern” should be taken seriously.
And yet, that appears to be just the kind of America we live in today, where trees are just as racist as the people walking under them.