Back in April, the Houston Independent School District unveiled four new high school mascots after their previous names were deemed too “culturally insensitive.” The offending mascots included the Indians, the Redskins, the Warriors and the Rebels.
The argument that these names are somehow discriminatory is absurd. School mascots are chosen because they’re awesome—something to emulate and admire. Students take the identity of the mascot upon themselves: “we’re the Indians!”
But there are plenty of people for whom protesting is a cause unto itself, and it’s just enough to make everyone’s day miserable. That means that even such awesome and innocuous names as warriors and rebels were marked for banishment.
Someone decided all this was worth the $250,000 required to change the mascots. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
Jump ahead a few months and it looks like the names of some schools are also up for the chopping block. In particular, schools named after Confederate-era figures. After all, why should we make heroes of people who were obviously on the wrong side of history?
I suppose, while we’re at it, we should look through our history books and national monuments and eliminate those individuals whose views might be out of step with today’s enlightened perspective.
The Washington and Jefferson memorials should be razed at once, since they participated in slavery. And even though Abraham Lincoln fought to end slavery, he still held racist views, and for that he was a necessary evil at best. Pretty much every president up until, well, halfway through Obama’s term, believed same-sex marriage to me immoral, or at least unwise. Perhaps we should just teach children that no prior president, including first-term Barack, really deserves our respect.
That’s ridiculous, of course. The point is that society evolves and our definition of what is acceptable today may not be tomorrow. If we get into the habit of shaming everyone who preceded us and fails to match our ever-shifting—but always superior—cultural norms, you may be the one your grandchildren refer to as “that ignorant bigot.”
There are a lot of bad ideas in books. We don’t burn them. There are a lot of historical figures who made bad decisions. We don’t shame them. We let them live, and continue to debate them, because the only guarantee of a wise and virtuous people is the freedom to engage with all ideas, to understand the evil we’ve overcome, and to learn that even being wrong has a role to play in helping us all get it right.