A former Dallas school leader, who is black, spoke out this week to defend the city’s historical Confederate monuments and statues amid a national push to remove all reminders after violence erupted at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally on Saturday.
Ron Price, the charismatic and often outspoken trustee who served on the Dallas Independent School District school board from 1997 to 2009, recommended the City of Dallas leave these Confederate markers in place or house them in a museum, admonishing those who want to rewrite history.
“We should never try to whitewash our history and it’s so critical and so important that African American kids that are coming in the next couple of generations understand what happened to us here in the United States,” said Price, who spoke to KDFW about the importance of future generations of children understanding “the struggle that we had here in the United States and understand that the struggle is not over.”
Price underscored that, even though the Confederate era monuments reflect on an ugly part of history, they are still a part of U.S. history. Removing them does not erase or change the past, present, or future, he points out.
“Don’t get it twisted that the statues are gone everything is great. The statues disappear, that doesn’t make everything great,” he added.
This comes as a change of heart for Price. In 2009, the longtime Dallas ISD fixture campaigned to turn the Confederate-monikered Colonial school into Martin Luther King, Jr., Elementary and rename Jefferson Davis Elementary for Barbara Jordan, the first black U.S. Congresswoman and a Texan. Price also attempted, unsuccessfully, to rebrand two other schools to honor Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and then President Barack Obama, though these efforts were unrelated to Confederate concerns.
Last year, Dallas ISD students voted to shed Confederate General John B. Hood’s nomenclature from one of its middle schools in response to the tragic 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, hate crime shooting of nine black church parishioners during a Bible study class. According to the school district, no one else brought forth school name change proposals in 2016. Conversely, Houston ISD spent $1.25 million to rename eight schools because of their Confederate ties during a $211 million budgetary shortfall they plugged by borrowing $212 million from taxpayers and they still came up short by $107 million. Responding to critics over the hefty rebranding price tag, Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Houston ISD trustee and former school board president, said: “I’ll take dignity over dollars.”
The deadly Charlottesville clash between white nationalists and Antifa counter-protesters triggered Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis to tweet Sunday: “It’s past time to change the name of all confederate schools in Dallas. Looking for leaders to join me in making the change.” By Wednesday, a woman unaffiliated with any group started an online petition to rename Dallas ISD’s Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson elementary schools. Meanwhile, board member Dr. Lew Blackburn told KDFW that parents at Albert Sidney Johnston Elementary, named for another Confederate general, are “more concerned about their child’s teacher, principal, how things were going on inside the school more so than the name of the school.”
This week, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the city’s Confederate statues “dangerous totems” and “monuments of propaganda” that symbolize “racial injustices of the past.” Breitbart Texas reported Rawlings turned the fate of these stone symbols over to an appointed task force and two independent advisory groups that will convene with officials after a 90-day evaluation to present findings and recommendations before meeting with the public.
Price, however, emphasized the importance of remembering what happened to blacks during slavery and drew a historical parallel to the horrific plight of millions of European Jews who perished in the 1930’s and 1940’s at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“We have Holocaust museums across the United States and around the world and it’s a constant reminder what happened to our brothers and sisters who are Jewish…during World War II.”
He added: “We should be reminded of what happened to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith,” noting “just like the African American community, we should always remember what happened to us so we can all say together, never again.”
Price feels his suggestions to leave the statues in place or move them to a museum are reasonable and the right thing to do.