A Portland high school has delayed voting on a new mascot after a school board director raised concerns that “evergreens” might be considered racist.
The buildup: Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School, formerly Woodrow Wilson High School, was considering replacing its former mascot – the Trojan – with coniferous trees, the Portland Tribune reported.
- The school had recently renamed itself after black journalist and suffragist, Ida B. Wells.
- Meanwhile, the school board was set to vote Tuesday on a replacement mascot proposed by a committee of students, staff and community members
- “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,” said Ellen Whatmore, a teacher and mascot committee member. “They provide shelter and sustenance. They have histories that preclude us and will continue in perpetuity after we are no more.”
The Douglas fir, a type of evergreen, is Oregon’s state tree.
The controversy: But Portland school board director Michelle LaPass raised a last-minute objection, claiming the tree imagery might be problematic in light of Wells-Barnett’s reporting on anti-black lynchings.
- “I’m wondering if there was any concern with the imagery there, in using a tree … as our mascot?” DePass asked before the vote. “I think everyone comes with blind spots and I think that might’ve been a really big blind spot.”
- The vote ended up being delayed until the school board’s next meeting.
- During its coverage of the controversy, Fox News aired a chyron which declared: “Cancel Culture Comes for the Evergreen Tree.”
- Civil rights attorney and Fox contributor Leo Terrell slammed the decision, saying it “devalues true racism.”
- “I’ve never had a case that deals with the tree being racist,” Terrell s aid.
The reaction on the left: But liberal commentators argued that conservatives were blowing the story out of proportion.
- “You can’t avoid Fox trying to stir up some culture war nonsense over nothing, it’s a big country and nonsense will always be found,” tweeted Media Matters for America senior fellow Matthew Gertz.
Culture wars: Conservatives are likely to view the controversy at Ida B. Wells as merely the latest instance of institutions – particularly those located in blue California – bowing to progressive orthodoxy.
- In San Francisco, the school board is reconsidering a January vote to rename 44 schools, including those honoring Abraham Lincoln and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for being “problematic.”
- Also in San Francisco, one school district official is waging a war on acronyms, which he claims are “symptoms” of “white supremacy culture.”