From The Denver Post: “Boulder students want to rename school for Obama”
Joellen Raderstorf says that the idea her son has come up with – renaming Boulder High School to “Barack Obama High School” – may have surprised a few people.
“We think the election of Barack Obama is one of the most significant events in our country and shows the progress we’ve made in this country,” Ben [Raderstorf] said today in-between classes. “We think he is deserving of recognition like this.”
The Boulder High School junior is deeply involved in politics. In the future he would like to major in international relations and economics.
Ben Raderstorf became president of a Boulder High School group called “Student Worker,” an organization of approximately a dozen kids that is advocating the name change.
“We initiated this campaign in order to honor the momentous achievement of this African-American, inspire the community with his ideals of unity and hope, and reflect the progressive spirit that is shared by both Barack Obama and our school environment,” he said.
I rarely get very personal on this blog, but this was something I just had to write about because of the overwhelming rage I felt upon reading this story.
Let me state that I definitely think Barack Obama deserves to be recognized and to have all sorts of things named after him. His election was indeed significant and inspiring and he may prove to be one of the best presidents in this country’s history.
My issue with this has little to do with Obama and more to do with the blatant hypocrisy exhibited by naming a school where racism, discrimination, and segregation are not only allowed, but enforced by the staff and administration.
To understand why I am so upset about this, you need to know my back story. As a bi-racial student at BHS from 1999-2002, I have first-hand experience with some of Boulder’s infamous hypocritical behavior.
I can’t even keep track of how many times I was told by my peers that I must listen to hip-hop, or be really good at basketball, or get into a lot of fights, or only be interested in dating black guys or that I probably know how to shake it like the girls in the Jay-Z video.
Boulder is a place that likes to congratulate itself for being progressive and open-minded. Residents often go so far to establish that they aren’t racist that they fail to recognize the racism they exhibit in their attempts to be accepting and tolerant.
Every February was like torture as my teachers asked me to lead discussions about Black History Month or the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I was used as an example in classes about segregation as my fellow students illustrated their points with, “It’s like if we didn’t let Alexis use the same drinking fountain as us.” In middle school at BaseLine I was even told that I should go as Rosa Parks for our History Day event and voted “Most Unique Hair” because I had braids.
While this might not be as outwardly wrong as being called a racial slur–which also happened to me a few times–it is hurtful in that it singles out the few minority students in a school and puts them on display like a Coney Island freak show. “Step right up! Witness the rare biracial teenager with her hair in braids!”
My time at Boulder High School only exacerbated things for me as I found that most of my so-called liberal peers were no better than the self-professed “red necks” I knew. Richard Pryor once joked that, every time a black person and a white person got into an argument, the white person always had the ammunition of calling the black person a slur. This certainly seemed to be true in my experience in Boulder and at Boulder High School.
It’s sad to think that a school that called itself “a place for everyone” engaged in such racist behavior as segregating Latino students by assigning them lockers on the third floor. It’s even worse to think that, when one of the speakers at the 2002 graduation ceremony acknowledged this, she was booed by parents and fellow students.
It’s even disheartening to see that Ben Raderstorf and others are flatly labeling Obama an African-American when he is actually biracial. It’s like a throw back to the “One-Drop” rule that developed in the early history of the United States.
The election was important. It was historical. But we shouldn’t describe it that way based only on the race of the candidate. Instead, we should see the significance of the election in terms of the hope Obama inspired or the positive change he might bring to our nation.
This post will surely spawn a lot of response from the faux-liberal flock in Boulder, but I was just so saddened and upset by the story that I couldn’t avoid responding. I can only hope that Boulder doesn’t sully the good name of Barack Obama by renaming Hypocrisy High in his honor.