I was one of several people who spoke before the Fairfax County School Board about the school system’s policy relating to renaming schools that are named after Confederates. Here are the remarks I delivered before the board:
My name’s Bryan Scrafford and I’m a resident of the Sully District. I grew up in Fairfax County and graduated from Centreville High School before going on to receive a degree in American History from George Mason. My passion for history didn’t end once I completed my degree as I’m actually now a member of a local Civil War roundtable, which is an organization that helps further discussion about the Civil War and preserve historic sites. With that in mind, I’m extremely disappointed that we have some people arguing that we must continue honoring white supremacists in the name of “preserving history.”
As someone who has a history degree, I can tell you that the practice of glorifying Confederate generals started in the Jim Crow era as a way to intimidate former slaves and isn’t an effort to celebrate Virginia’s history. Naming schools after Confederates is simply a continuation of that practice. If you’re looking for some data to back this up, consider this: There are 429 war memorials in Virginia and only four are for the Revolutionary War — a war Virginia played a big role in. There’s seven for WWII, 6 for WWI, and 27 for the Union cause in the Civil War. But there are 378 for the Confederacy. That means 88% of the war memorials in Virginia glorifying people who fought to preserve the institution of slavery. It’s clearly not about celebrating Virginia’s history and it’s truly unfortunate we’ve allowed this to spread into our school system.
There’s been some discussion about how people believe it would simply cost too much money for our school system to change school names. This is a valid concern as there would be an initial investment required to start the process. Those claiming this should stop us from moving forward, however, are ignoring the economic consequences of not taking action. Businesses are becoming more and more socially conscious nowadays and are mindful of investing in communities that embrace diversity. Having schools named after white supremacists would send the wrong message to businesses looking for communities to invest in. But perhaps the most important thing is that it sends the wrong message to our students, not only about where we stand as a society but also about our history. Fixing that is worth the investment.
It is time for the School Board to set policies that would no longer allow our school names to glorify the Confederacy. Germans won’t forget Hitler and the lessons they learned in WWII if they don’t name schools after him and Virginians won’t forget Confederates and the lessons of the Civil War if we no longer name our schools after them.