Sunday, January 13, 2019

Marin Voice: Dixie name-change issue ‘a wake-up call for Marin’

Marin Voice: Dixie name-change issue ‘a wake-up call for Marin’

PUBLISHED: January 11, 2019 at 10:00 am | UPDATED: January 12, 2019 at 7:49 am

Each year a service organization to which I belong pays for and passes out hundreds of dictionaries to Marin third-graders. On the walls of many classrooms are pictures of American heroes. Inevitably one sees an image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As Marin County grapples with the quandary of a Dixie School District in our midst, I wonder what Marin is willing to do of a concrete nature to honor the memory of the martyred civil rights leader.

One way is to rid ourselves of the name Dixie. School board Trustee Marnie Glickman, the only Dixie board member to publicly support the name change, has gone on record, stating: “We have a moral obligation to teach our children about history. Dixie is a synonym of the Confederacy. It is a reminder of slavery, segregation and lynching.”

In the past few weeks a phalanx of public officials, respected community leaders and organizations have stepped forward to join the movement to change the district’s name. In addition to Congressman Jared Huffman, they include state Sen. Mike McGuire, county schools Superintendent Mary Jane Burke, county Supervisors Kate Sears and Dennis Rodoni, San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips, Marin Community Foundation President and CEO Thomas Peters, the Marin Human Rights Commission, the Marin Democratic Central Committee, the Marin Green Party and the Marin Interfaith Council. For a complete list of supporters, now over 1,500, visit

Despite the snowballing avalanche of public support, there are still elected officials sitting on the sidelines, some trying to have it both ways. When you walk into Assemblyman Marc Levine’s office, you’ll see prominently displayed a Black Lives Matter placard. Unwilling to take a public stand on this issue, he told me and others who met with him that we should end our discussion by thanking him for meeting with us and that he would let us know he would think about the name-change issue. It’s now been several weeks.

Marin Supervisor Damon Connolly, himself a former Dixie School Board member, wrote a letter to the district board, stating, “We can do better.” Yet when asked directly, his staff wouldn’t say whether he’s for or against the name change. He reminds me of a politician who once said: “Some of my friends are for the issue, some are against. And I’m four-square for my friends.”

Not taking a stand is taking a stand. Quoting Dante: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.” I’m certain the newly elected Dixie trustees are weighing that thought. It was pointed out in a recent IJ editorial they sidestepped the issue in their endorsement interviews, which did not go unnoticed.

This issue is a wake-up call for Marin. It holds up a mirror to ourselves. It allows us to see who we really are rather than how we would like to see ourselves. Evidence of the skittishness of the “We Are Dixie” contingent is their unwillingness to attach their names to their website. How proud of their stance can they be?

Marin has deep-seated issues it must address, well beyond a mere symbolic step such as a name change.

Just in the past two weeks the principal of Miller Creek Middle School within the Dixie School District issued a letter to parents concerning “an increase of hate filled speech including racial slurs, imitations of accents, perpetuation of stereotypes, name calling based on physical characteristics and sexual orientation and use of the n-word.” This taking place in a county judged the most inequitable in the state.

Clearly there is much work to be done. On Jan. 15, the day of King’s birthday, 10 names will be submitted to the Dixie Board of Trustees, which is legally bound to act upon them by Feb. 24. Please show your support that evening by attending the meeting at 6 p.m. in the district office, 380 Nova Albion Way in Terra Linda, and honor the memory of Dr. King in the process.  See article HERE

EDITOR's NOTE:  The conversation will be helped for both sides if we stop talking about groups of people as if they are one entity. We all speak for ourselves and no one has right to speak ":on behalf of my community" or "against another community". We are neither collectively good or bad. Although I want the name change for Dixie too, it is time for the "Change the Name" folks to point out specific acts of racism. Are there white supremacist organizations operating in the district? If so, name them and apologize to the rest of us who want a welcoming community for all of us.
It seems that some are more interested in agitating the community than actually having heart to heart discussions and coming up with a better name for the future.

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