HISD Names New Mascots, Goes With Second Choice at Lamar

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When the Houston ISD school board decided to retire some mascot names that it found culturally insensitive, it opened up the naming process to the community, who were invited to submit their top two choices to HISD administration.

As is being announced this morning at a 10:30 a.m. press conference, Hamilton Middle School's Indians will become the Huskies (the school's first choice). Welch Middle School's Warriors will become the Wolf Pack (also its first choice). And Westbury High School is leaving behind the Rebels to become the Huskies (who knew that name would be so popular? And also their first choice).

Lamar High School will drop the Redskins - although clearly not all students were in favor of that - to become the Texans, the school's second choice and the one that HISD administrators and trustees believe is better to adopt.

Because some people find the Lamar community's first choice - of all the words available to them in the English language - was culturally insensitive as well.

The word was "Texian," which to some people sounds like just some old-fashioned way of referring to the people who came here to live about the time of the state's move to independence from Mexico.

But others point out that the Texians were the Anglos, and that probably Tejanos or Hispanic Texans were excluded from this group. Also that the Anglos who identified as Texians may have had motives other than truth and freedom - maybe continued slave ownership - as their rallying point.

We called up Dr. Raul A. Ramos, director of undergraduate studies at UH's History Department, who told us that "Texian is the self-identified term that Texan separatists used in 1835, 1836 in the war against Mexico. Generally it was used by Anglo Texans to refer to themselves. That's the definition. "

"Does that exclude the Mexican Texans living in that time? It's a controversy. It appears to exclude that. You could get into a debate about whether it would exclude Mexican Texans - Tejanos - and certainly it would exclude Mexican Texans who didn't agree with separating from Mexico," Ramos said.

"There's a second issue: what were Anglo Texans really fighting for. We're starting to get a growing consensus they were fighting to maintain slavery. Slavery was already here. They felt continuing to live under the Mexican government would be a threat to the future of slavery. Mexico as a nation had outlawed slavery so Texas was living under essentially a set of exemptions that were granted along the way."

Another professor we contacted, Lorenzo Cano, associate director for the Center for Mexican American Studies at UH, said the Anglos who eventually moved into Texas brought new "racist attitudes" and wanted to institutionalize slavery in the state.

"This is why I thought it would not be a good thing to use the word Texian because of its association with the South and with bringing the institution of slavery into Texas. Not to say every immigrant held slaves," Cano said.

"If you know the history, I think would set up a bad connotation for people today who understand the history," he explained.

Back in December, Grier wrote in an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle that it was time to move on from some of the names of the past.

Lamar, Westbury, Welch and Hamilton should be defined and measured by their notable student successes - not bogged down by questions about their school mascots. Our goal in HISD is not to obliterate all vestiges of traditional figures that were once widely embraced. That is an important part of each school's cultural and historic literacy.

But the place for Redskins patches or pennants, or for Confederate symbols is no longer on the uniforms of our teams and cheer squads. They can be displayed in cases on campuses and explained in history books.

As can the Texians.

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