Local Commentary

Editorial: The Upside of Fixing Old Racist Errors

There is a significant added benefit to the process underway in Fairfax County now to change the name of the Falls Church-area J.E.B. Stuart High School, named for a Confederate general, which the county school board voted to do last month, and will review the balloting conducted last weekend to arrive at an alternative name. Fairfax County School Superintendent Scott Braband is likely to announce his choice tonight, pending a board approval next week.

Ironically, the most votes last weekend went to a variation of the existing name (Stuart instead of J.E.B. Stuart), but while that reflects the attitudes of those opposed to the name change to begin with, it is expected that the board, in the spirit of its action to change the name, will go with either the name of one or another civil rights hero, either Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall or Virginia student activist Barbara Rose Johns, who finished neck-and-neck in second and third place. Johns (1935-1991), it will be recalled, spearheaded the lawsuit brought by high school students in Prince Edward County that ultimately was consolidated to become the famous Brown Vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case.

It would be a total copout for the board to opt for a noxious location name like Peace Valley and, of course, Stuart is out of the question. There needs to be a lot more of the healing that can come from a name like Barbara Rose Johns, as it has done for the City of Falls Church when it changed the name of its middle school for Mary Ellen Henderson more than a decade ago by now in honor of an early 20th century educator in the then-segregated schools of Northern Virginia.

Doing the right thing in this case just feels right. We hope that the awakening that is now coming over us about the shameful motives of whites in the South to impose Confederate statues all over the region to intimidate African-Americans will continue such that eventually all the stains of that ugly intent will be removed.

As this is done, Northern Virginia will come far closer to earning a deserved reward. That is, major corporate America is now looking to find the most progressive, the most diversity-embracing regions of the country to build and relocate their operations. That’s because the best of them are recruiting from around the globe and to retain these best minds, having them in a stress-free, diversity embracing environment is very important for them.

We are now cultivating a new regional culture, one which, among other things, can come to grips with errors of the past and correct them, such as changing the name of a high school away from a racist Confederate general. That move should be touted in marketing promotions for the region. Even Amazon might be interested in it!