The head of the San Francisco Board of Education rejected the assertion that historians should participate in the city’s school-renaming process in a Feb. 6 interview with The New Yorker.
Gabriela Lopez, who was elected president of the San Francisco Board of Education in 2018, told the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner that she would not seek the input of historians because she didn’t “want to get into a process where we then discredit the work that [the renaming committee] has done.”
The committee responsible for the renaming initiative consisted of “a diverse set of community members, people with a set of experiences that contribute to these discussions, people from different backgrounds who are also educated in their own rights,” according to Lopez.
Chotiner pointed to multiple factual errors within the board’s reasoning for renaming schools over the course of the interview. suggesting that their involvement would ensure accuracy in the discussion of name-changing. (RELATED: San Francisco Board Of Education’s Document Arguing For School Renamings Is Riddled With Historical Errors)
Lopez rebutted that absolute accuracy was not important, and referred to the school renamings as an attempt to “uplift things that we normally aren’t uplifting in our public-school system, in our society.” She added, “It’s important to uplift. This does not cancel history.”
Lopez referred to the vote renaming the schools as “defeating white supremacy” in a tweet.
To put it simply, defeating white supremacy/racism will never be something people will accept. There is no “better time” to combat hate. And even so, we’ve managed to move forward on a number of pressing issues. Problem is reporting like this spews more inaccuracies and distrust. https://t.co/HSS32jhxGI
— Madam President, M.Ed. (@lopez4schools) January 28, 2021
The initiative to rename local schools with names deemed “problematic” has been widely unpopular, drawing criticism even from local Democratic politicians.
“The fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our City. Not the name of a school,” Breed said previously in a press release.
Lopez described Breed’s remarks as contributing to “any opportunity to cause further division,” The New Yorker reported.
The head of the Board of Education’s renaming committee, Jeremiah Jeffries, drew attention in December 2020 for claiming that President Abraham Lincoln “did not show through policy or rhetoric that Black lives ever mattered.”
Lopez echoed those comments in her interview, saying, “Lincoln is not someone that I typically tend to admire or see as a hero, because of these specific instances where he has contributed to the pain of the decimation of people.”