Name Changes Matter

My heart does a little flip of excitement every time a rebel flag comes down somewhere, a statue of a racist is toppled, or a street name is changed. Of course sometimes, as a white woman who is admittedly out of touch with the full scope of how racism infects our society, I feel nothing at first. But I force myself to pay attention and do a little jumping jack of joy in solidarity.

I’ve listened to the arguments: “Removing flags and statues and changing names erases and re-writes history.” I disagree. History can still be told accurately without elevating abusers, tyrants, and racists to a place of honor. I remember the day my mom hesitantly told me that my dad and my brother had driven through my home-town and discovered that my childhood sexual predator had a street named after him. It hurt, and she knew it would when she told me. I accepted the truth of it though at the time. Many of the people in the town had known him as a beloved and charming figure. They had no knowledge of his secret evils and perversions. So, because they didn’t know, they of course thought he was a person worthy of something in the town being named after him.

A couple years after my mom told me that, I wanted to go by and see it for myself. My mom and I made the drive together. When we got to the street, we discovered that someone had removed the sign. It was just an empty pole. My heart did a leap in excitement. There’s someone else out there who knows the truth about what an asshole he was! And they had the courage to do something I couldn’t picture myself doing– they tore the sign down! I was literally trembling as we drove up that street and I couldn’t even bare to be parked there for more than two minutes, because the terror that man inflicted is still very much alive in my body at times. But to know that there was someone else out there that was in my camp mattered. And it sparked the hope within me that someday the truth will come out and that street name will be changed.

Black lives matter. Native American lives matter. Latino lives matter. LGBTQIA lives matter. Anyone who doesn’t feel like there’s a box or label that they fit under matters. And I as a little white girl abused by a sick white man in a police uniform mattered. NAME CHANGES MATTER.

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