A Virginia school board voted to reinstate confederate names at two schools. I’ll bet even Robert E. Lee is confused.

OPINION: The Shenandoah County, Va., school board decided that the best way to address racism is to honor it. 

(Photo by littleny/Adobe Stock Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Years ago, I took my wife on her first road trip into the Deep South as we made the 11-hour trek from Washington, D.C., to Huntsville, Ala., to visit my parents. My wife, who is from Ghana and moved to New Jersey at age 11 before attending Howard University, had never been to the South before. Sure, she’d been to Miami, but I think we can all agree that Miami and anywhere in Alabama aren’t quite the same thing. 

Like many people from, well, anywhere else, she was very concerned about the trip. Between all of the documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement, history, racist white people and the general idea that “the South is where racism thrives,” she was pretty much concerned that she was going to be called the n-word, potentially kidnapped and turned into an ancestor simply by crossing the imaginary border into “the South.” I assured her that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t take long for us to have our first (humourous) brush with racism. 

No more than two-plus hours outside of D.C., we hit a rest stop so my kids could use the restroom. We were right past the borders of Northern Virginia, which isn’t an independent state but everybody who lives in the D.C. area knows the difference between “Virginia” and “Northern Virginia,” which is like the difference between Atlanta and Georgia.  A whole group of bikers with confederate flags on their shirts was parked using the facilities. I spoke with one of the biker dudes about the weather, and we went our separate ways but she felt vindicated. The racism was awaiting us as soon as we hit “Virginia.” I laughed that off, but I also couldn’t really disagree. 


That memory is the first thing I thought of when I read the recent news story about the all-white Shenandoah County, Va., school board that voted to restore the names of two schools originally named after racists and losers — Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby. The two schools in question, currently Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School, were renamed in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020 when folks made the historically correct decision to remove confederate symbols and change the names of schools named after THE LOSERS OF THE CIVIL WAR. 

I cannot stress enough how idiotic I think it is to honor the losers of the war that tore the country apart, but white folks gon’ white folks, ya know? I’ll bet even Stonewall Jackson and ‘nem are like, “Really??? Wow … what a group of idiots. We lost. Had we won, we definitely wouldn’t have any schools named after the Union generals!” Robert E. Lee even opposed monuments after it was all said and done. Why? Because erecting monuments and such would be too divisive. What are we even doing here?

Despite what seems like many in the community who didn’t want to change the names back to Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary, the conservative school board was like, “Yeah, we definitely need to put these racists back on the marquee! HERITAGE, NOT HATE!” Forget what message that sends to the students of color in those schools; it’s more important to honor THE LOSERS of the Civil War because apparently, the defenders of slavery and racism were men of high moral standing and character, more so than the school board that changed the names in the wake of George Floyd’s murder back in 2020. 

My gawd. 

It’s bad enough that the racists have gained steam over the years with “critical race theory” bans and turning back diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, but now districts are actively putting racists back on schools? Intentionally? White people never cease to amaze me with the audacity and gall. Especially since we all know what happens from here; the fact that this happened here means that other school districts might follow suit, not for a good reason, but to make a point. To say, I hate it here really doesn’t cover how I feel. 

The aliens (and Robert E. Lee) must be so confused. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.