Change the names and don’t stop there

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Weekly Word: Each week, the Lasso Editorial Board will comment on an issue that is relevant to the students of George Mason High School. We strive to present a student-oriented opinion about topics big and small that matter to the student body.

Editorial Board

George Mason and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. They bought, sold, and traded humans as property. Their participation in America’s racist history should not be honored in any way in our schools. George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School should be renamed—and it should be one of many steps that the School Board takes to address racial injustice in our schools. 

Yes, both Mason and Jefferson, at times in their lives, publicly questioned the morality of slavery. And both wrote foundational documents that helped create the United States. But FCCPS should not be in the business of making excuses for slaveholders, ever.

It would be easy to change the names of Mason and Jefferson and stop there. We could change the names, pat ourselves on the back, and then take comfort in the fact that we made a small change to address our country’s—and city’s—racist history. But if we stop after changing the names, we will prevent more meaningful change from happening. 

The work of student social justice organizations such as the Social Justice Committee, the Black Student Union, and the MEH Students for Social Justice club make clear that the name change would be a tiny step towards a sweeping change in FCCPS’s culture towards racism. 

Junior Pariss Quaintance, co-president of the Black Student Union, wrote about how name changes are meaningless unless our history curriculum changes. Senior Umika Pathak, a student leader on the Social Justice Committee, wrote about the importance of talking about race in class, as well as the need for implicit bias training, a reevaluation of our English class reading lists, and a commitment to cultural and racial diversity throughout FCCPS faculty. Students are speaking loudly and clearly about the concrete change they want to see in FCCPS beyond the name change. 

We commend the work that the School Board is doing in the name change process. Everyone, especially the School Board, must keep working for more concrete changes towards anti-racism and racial equity in Falls Church.

This is one of a series of student-written opinions about the potential name change of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Read more here.