Last month, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez called on the San Diego Unified School District to change the name of an elementary school named after Civil War General Robert E. Lee. In a letter, Gonzalez wrote that “Recent tragedies have revived the debate over confederate-related symbolism in our country,” and that “schools should be inclusive. If they’re named after a person, they should be named after role models.”
Now, Senate Bill 539 by Senator Glazer would prohibit the use of a name associated with the Confederate States of America to name schools, government buildings, parks, roads, and other state or local property.
One person who isn’t covered by the bill, but really should be, is California Governor Henry Haight. He has a major street in San Francisco named for him, two neighborhoods (San Francisco’s Haight-Fillmore and Haight-Ashbury) as well as an elementary school in Alameda. He did do some arguably positive things, like signing the bill creating the University of California in 1868, he was more than just a little racist. Take the following quotes from his 1867 Inaugural Address (which, amazingly for what he said, was after the Civil War).
Regarding the right way to make important decisions on national policies:
“In order to arrive at correct conclusions on this subject, there must be a disposition to lay aside preconceived opinions, and, in a spirit of candid inquiry, to aim at forming a correct judgment as to what policy will promote the highest good of the whole people.”
Haight also criticized the Reconstruction efforts in the South following the Civil War, describing it as giving “the political control to a mass of negroes just emancipated and almost as ignorant of political duties as the beasts of the field” and arguing that it would lead to “the subjection of the white population of the Southern States, men, women and children, to the domination of a mass of ignorant negroes just freed from slavery.”
Haight also went on to express his “unceasing astonishment” that “any white man could be found on this continent to sanction a policy so subversive of rational liberty, and in the end so fatal to the Union and the Government…” and described as “evils absolutely intolerable” the idea of granting the right to vote to African-Americans and Asians.
“The question is, whether it will be for the greatest good of the greatest number to confine the elective franchise to the whites, or to extend it to the negroes and Chinese. A portion of those persons in this State who favor negro suffrage hesitate to advocate Chinese suffrage, but the congressional policy makes no distinction.”
Just when you think it can’t get worse, Haight goes on to explain that not only would giving the “confessedly inferior” the right to vote be “evil”, but that it wouldn’t do them any good;
“These inferior races have their civil rights, as all good men desire they should have. They can sue and defend in the courts; acquire and possess property; they have entire freedom of person, and can pursue any lawful occupation for a livelihood; but they will never, with the consent of the people of this State, either vote or hold office.”
Of all the people in California who deserve to have their names removed from public places, Governor Henry H. Haight has my vote.