As ABC news reports, “A Marin County school district voted to change its name that many consider racist.” Critics of the Dixie School District, readers learn, argued that the word “Dixie” was too closely linked with slavery and the Confederate south.
According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, “Dixie is a nickname for the southern U.S. states that formed the pro-slavery Confederacy in 1860, sparking the Civil War. The legacy of the Confederacy prompts political, legal and cultural conflicts to this day.”
Those who support the name change claim the district was named Dixie by James Miller, the school founder, on a dare by Confederate sympathizers. On the other hand, “those who oppose the change say the school system was named for Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian woman that Miller knew in the 1840s.”
Mette Nygard, who opposed the change, explained that “the community is so far removed from the Confederacy that it’s a ridiculous assertion.” She was interrupted by demonstrators chanting “Dixie must go!” and bearing signs, “say no to racism.” In reality, the embattled Mette Nygard was right.
For all the faults in its storied history, California was not part of the Confederacy. As history buffs know, California was part of the Spanish Empire, which raises issues of names that might need changing. Consider, for example, Franciscan priest Junipero Serra.
Missionaries like Serra were essentially the chaplains of Spanish colonialism. Under the encomienda system, native peoples were part of the land grants the conquistadores gave to Spanish settlers. The native peoples were required to work for the encomenderos, who considered them property. The white Spanish imperialists were also unabashed racists who exploited slaves from western Africa for mining and agriculture.
Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, explains that Serra “decimated 90% of the Indian population.” Everywhere they put a mission “the majority of Indians are gone,” and, “Serra knew what they were doing: they were taking the land, taking the crops, he knew the soldiers were raping women, and he turned his head.”
As historians note, Serra forced Indians to farm, breed livestock and live in regimented communities. They were flogged for disobedience and those who fled could be raped by Spanish soldiers. Serra’s contemporary, French explorer Jean François de Galaup de la Pérouse, compared the missions to “slave plantations.” When Pope Francis canonized Serra in 2015, Ron Andrade wondered, “Why doesn’t the Pope canonize Pizarro or Cortez?”
Despite his oppressions of native peoples, statues of Serra abound and the highest point in Monterey County is Junipero Serra Peak. Downtown Los Angeles hosts the Junípero Serra State Office Building and Interstate 280 is known as the “Junipero Serra Freeway.” Nobody is proposing name changes to these public sites.
Spanish colonialism also lives on in city names such as San Diego, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara and many others. By the standards of the historical purge crew, these are due for some fundamental change. Los Angeles could become Mickey Mouse City and San Diego the Navy Base City. San Francisco could opt for “The City,” as residents call it now, or “Sanctuary City,” which it already is.
Meanwhile, Marin educrats have yet to come up with a new name for the allegedly Confederate district. They already rejected “Marie Dixie Elementary School District” and “Skywalker Elementary School District,” a nod to Marin resident George Lucas of Star Wars fame.