Coinciding with institutions across the country reconsidering names with racist ties following the nationwide and universal demonstrations resulting from the death of George Floyd, in July 2020 the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges passed a resolution asking all Virginia community colleges to review their names. In February 2021, following extensive study, research, and discussions, the Lord Fairfax Community College Board voted to seek a new name that better reflected the institution and its mission. (Its namesake, Thomas, the 6th Lord of Fairfax, was an 18th century slave owner who remained loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War. Also, according to LFCC research, historical records indicate he engaged in long-term sexual abuse of enslaved women.)
A top LFCC official stated that: “Most importantly, we learned that when those surveyed learned more about Lord Fairfax, support for changing the name more than doubled. This means we exemplify honesty, character and respect for our communities. The college needs a name that honors those values.”
An April 30 Winchester Star article titled “Frederick supervisors oppose Lord Fairfax Community College name change” states that the board voted on Wednesday night to send a letter to the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges objecting to the idea. What is most disturbing about this board decision is that it was introduced by its newest member Shawn Graber, who has become an ally of the likes of ultra-conservative journalist Selwyn Duke and Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and obviously has become obsessed with propelling himself indiscriminately to the ranks of power and influence, again resorting to his theatrical threating tactic of withholding county funds if LFCC proceeds with renaming itself.
But the fact that several other board members supported Graber reflects a disturbing disconnect with reality in light of the extensive name changing that is occurring throughout the nation by colleges and universities, states and localities, businesses, sports, museums, music halls, health care facilities, government buildings, industry headquarters, and even many food products. For a few examples:
The University of California at Berkley has renamed 3 Halls; Clemson Univiversity has approved removal of the name of its founder John C. Calhoun; Indiana University has approved renaming of its sports arena; Fairfax County has approved the renaming of Robert E. Lee High School; Princeton University voted to change the name of its prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; our own James Madison University approved removal of names of all Confederate officers, including Stonewall Jackson; University of Texas approved renaming it football stadium, along with the University of Alabama and a number of others; and right here at home, Shenandoah University has removed Harry F. Byrd Jr.'s name from the School of Business; and the federal government has renamed NASA’s headquarters. Then, just for a few of the food products that have been renamed, there are no more Sambo’s, Aunt Jemima’s, Uncle Ben’s, Eskimo’s and others.
Can we believe our Frederick supervisors were oblivious to these enormous name changes taking place all over America, or could it be that they have allowed themselves to become the victim of pernicious gobbledygook?
Guss Morrison is a resident of Frederick County.