Why Wilson’s namesake doesn’t reflect us

Why Wilson’s namesake doesn’t reflect us

Photo courtesy of Judith Ingram

Keyla Sejas

Considering high school is a journey of self discovery for many students, it’s unbelievable for a school to be named after someone as awful as Woodrow Wilson. To expect kids of color, especially those who are Black, to attend such a school, and to attempt to pursue their true identity is unbelievably atrocious. As a person of color, I am in support of changing the name of our school, and I’m aware that many of my Black peers are in support as well.

As the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson holds a legacy of immense pain within the Black American community. Due to policies arranged during his administration, the Black middle class was destroyed throughout the 20th century. It seems inappropriate for Black American/African American students, who account for 30.8% of our school’s population, to attend a school named after someone who allowed and supported racial segregation in the national government.

Woodrow Wilson has been praised for far too long. Although being taught and known as the leader of the Progressive Era, Wilson was the leader for only those who were white. Remember, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for advocating for the failed League of Nations in 1919, not for being a leader in the civil rights movement. 

Changing our school’s name won’t lead to solving many of the problems we have in America such as with the conversion of American history. Though I wish it was that easy, it’ll help spread awareness and spark new conversations. Reflecting on Wilson’s past, rather than praising him for providing new initiatives for White men and women only, is just a start. There are many other historical figures that have been washed and shined to fit the narrative that America is Great. 

Reflecting and conversing on behalf of the many historical figures that are praised for doing the bare minimum for White Americans can also lead to a much more revealing conversation on how it affects many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoc) now. By grasping a better understanding of our sugar-coated history, we will have more knowledge on what to do during times of struggle when our fellow peers who are Black, Indigenous and of Color need support to battle their systems of oppression. 

There are many names one can think of for rededicating our school, names such as August Wilson, James Baldwin or even Chadwick Boseman. Renaming our school is just the start to something bigger, hopefully. Although I don’t necessarily have a name I think is perfect, I think that naming Wilson after someone incredibly important to the Black community would be a gratifying gesture.