April 06, 2021

Evergreen trees are now racist as Portland school board member puts a halt to naming evergreens as a school mascot because of lynching. Wait, what?!

The Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School in Portland, Oregon conducted a months-long process to choose a new mascot whittling the original list down from over 2000 names to 420 and eventually to 5 finalists only to have ended up picking the racist one, "evergreen trees."

Talk about bad luck.

There is an irony here in that the only reason I can think of for choosing a plant phylum for your school mascot (Who's their main football rival? The Fighting Ferns?), is if you wanted to bend over backwards and twice on Sunday to avoid any possibility that your choice could be the least bit controversial or give offense to anyone. What's left after that? Lint? Masonry? Maybe something off the periodic table? "The fearsome Ida B. Wells-Barnett Helium Molecules," does have a certain ring to it...

While evergreen trees might seem inoffensive to someone who is not a Community Engagement and Policy Coordinator for the city of Portland, the Ida B. Wells-Barnett high school was fortunate to have as a School Board Director, Michelle DePass, who managed to turn the seemingly innocent conifer into something far more sinister.

"I'm wondering if there was any concern with the imagery there, in using a tree ... as our mascot?" DePass asked the mascot renaming committee.

Incidentally, they were replacing their old mascot, the Trojan.

WilsonMascot_small

I guess that offended, who, the politically powerful Oregon Ancient Greece lobby?

"I think everyone comes with blind spots and I think that might've been a really big blind spot."

There are blind spots, and then there are anti-racist supervision spots with the power to conjure up racist intent out of little more than pretense and pine needles. 

"Lynching is a really difficult topic to talk about and as a sole Black board member, I invite you, beg you, implore you to join me in disrupting the situations, practices, that are racist."

We're still talking about a tree. I think.

These are the dots you have to connect to understand her logic, or what passes for it:

  • Ida B. Wells was a prominent civil rights activist post Civil War, exposing the brutal treatment of blacks in the south including the barbaric practice of lynching.
  • Lynching mobs often used trees.
  • Evergreen trees are trees.
  • Ergo, evergreen trees are racist.

Kind of a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" argument only with a few more hocs, a couple of ergos, and maybe another propter or two.

"I can't do this by myself," she said.

This immense burden falls to her.

Stunning. Brave.

Insane.

As it turns out, the naming committee, including an African-American, says they had actually discussed the connection.

"We did talk about it, but we were looking at the symbolism more as a tree of life, than a tree of death," Osborne, who is African American, told the school board. "You could certainly take it either way, depending upon your position."

Yes, assuming one of those positions is located in crazy town.

The naming committee even discussed the relative merits of trees suitable for lynchings depending on their taxonomic classification.

"Lynching trees typically are not evergreens," he added, saying deciduous trees with large, lower branches were typically used to hang Black people in the south.

I feel I should remind readers here that this was part of a discussion about a school mascot.

While they had originally agreed to delay the decision, they decided last night to cave in to the absurdity.

I also wanted to let everyone know that we will be changing the mascot recommendation which we initially presented to the School Board on March 30.  After further discussion, reflection, and consideration, the renaming committee and I determined that Evergreens is not an appropriate mascot for our school.  While the Evergreens certainly do symbolize strength and vitality for many cultural, regional, and racial groups, Evergreens can also evoke painful memories of brutal lynchings that Ida B. Wells reported on. 

Evergreen trees = brutal lynchings.

News you can use!

Of course this kind of thing weaponizes completely benign objects, creates yet more invisible landmines for the innocent to inadvertently trigger, and ultimately trivializes something that is deadly serious.

As Leo Terrell put it,

This subject bothers me a lot. I've been a civil rights attorney for 30 years. I taught U.S. History for seven years. I've never had a client complain that a tree is racist. I've never had a case that deals with the tree being racist. It devalues true racism in this country... It diminishes and devalues what actually happened in the 30s and 40s and 50s.

There is an "Ida B Wells Middle School" located in Washington DC which had recently changed their name and chose to keep their mascot, still calling themselves "the wolves."

Now, I don't want to stir up any trouble, but wolves are related to dogs which are related to German Shepherds which were often used as...

April 6, 2021 at 03:00 PM in Racism, Woke Madness | Permalink | Comments (2)