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Patrick Henry's offensive name must go

Patrick Henry's offensive name must go

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Rev. Tyler Millner 2021_mug.jpg

An open letter to Glenn Dubois, chancellor of the State Board of Community Colleges:

First, let me thank you, Mr. Chancellor, and staff members who have lent their ears to converse on this issue about the name of Patrick Henry Community College. It makes a statement about communications and listening, particularly where a diversity of views will enhance the policy.

As a local pastor as well as concerned and involved citizen of the Martinsville-Henry County community, I have grave concerns that the naming issue is a golden opportunity missed by our local board (“PHCC name may remain,” July 20).

To support my assertion I offer an excerpt from this article: “Last summer the State directed the community colleges to analyze their names for appropriateness. PHCC ‘s name was examined for either being after the Revolutionary War patriot who had owned slaves or from the two counties the college serves. There was a consideration of adding a hyphen between the two county names, but in May PHCC requested the name be allowed to remain as is.”

Herein the local board takes a rather narrow, restrictive reading as to what was the assignment being given to the local board by the State Board for Community Colleges.

I read in the Reviewing the Appropriateness of Community College Facility Names dated July 16, 2020, and quote: “…colleges to review the appropriateness of its college, campus(es) and facilities names …”

The charge “appropriateness” is nowhere reflected in the articles cited from the Bulletin’s reporting on the deliberations of the local board. The fact that Mr. Patrick Henry owned slaves is both instructive and defining; as such his name is not appropriate for the naming of a college of higher education.

Then you add — again I am citing from the directive — “the mission of Virginia’s Community colleges their shared dedication to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion…”

The question should have automatically been raised. How can the college be serious in her mission when the college is named after one who held slaves? This symbol and history are both offensive to Black and brown people and the very opposite of the mission and high ideals of higher education.

All others matters and issues related pale in comparison to this offensive. (They are matters — for sure — to pay attention and consider), but they are neither a substitute or a justification to the “offense that slavery” is to Black and brown.

Mr. Chancellor and board members, it ought to be an offense to everyone.

And this grave and evil act should not be memorialized. Nor should the name and good faith of the commonwealth or any of her instruments thereof should be supporting to such.

For the commonwealth as well as the nation to correct the narrative, it is and will be painful. But it cannot be used as excuse to not have “the interrogation.” There must be more voices around the table. And we must have new and different symbolism.

I am one voice — but more than a solo voice — I say to the board, “the name needs to change.”

Much more could be said and will be in future times and different settings. For now, nothing more need to be said. The name is offensive.

The writer is a resident and minister in Martinsville.

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