Portland school postpones changing mascot to evergreen tree over fears it may be tied to lynching and racism
Ida B Wells-Barnett High School's new potential mascot, an evergreen tree, might be racist in nature, seeing that it could be associated with lynching
A local school in Portland, Ida B Wells-Barnett High School, is currently facing a crisis. The school believes that its new potential mascot, an evergreen tree, could possibly be perceived as racist.
The school, which was formerly known as Woodrow Wilson High, has renamed itself Ida B Wells-Barnett High School and in the process also let go of their previous Trojan mascot. While the committee proposed having evergreen trees as the mascot, some of the members are concerned that the same might be associated with lynching. As a result, the school has decided to postpone voting on the mascot until its next board meeting.
As reported by Portland Tribune, the school changed its name and mascot earlier this year. In a resolution regarding the mascot, the committee outlined why they selected evergreen trees. "Evergreens are characterized by the life-giving force of their foliage, the strength of their massive trunk, and the depth of their roots — in an individual tree and as a forest of trees," explained Ellen Whatmore, a teacher and mascot committee member, while reading from the previously mentioned resolution. "They provide shelter and sustenance. They have histories that preclude us and will continue in perpetuity after we are no more."
However, on March 30, Director Michelle DePass shed light on a possible correlation between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ida B Wells and evergreens — Wells documented and fought against lynching and trees are often associated with hangings. "I'm wondering if there was any concern with the imagery there, in using a tree... as our mascot?" DePass pointed out to the committee. "I think everyone comes with blind spots and I think that might've been a really big blind spot."
Wells-Barnett's family, who has been supportive of the school's effort to commemorate the journalist's legacy, expressed the same concern. Martin Osborne, one of the committee members, pointed out that the board did discuss the symbolism of the tree and what it could possibly stand for. "We did talk about it, but we were looking at the symbolism more as a tree of life, than a tree of death," Osborne explained to the board.
"You could certainly take it either way, depending upon your position," he added. Osborne, who is African American, added that evergreens aren't typical lynching trees either, pointing out that it was usually trees with lower branches that were used for the heinous act that targeted Black people. DePass suggested that the school committee reach out to Wells-Barnett's family and have them weigh in.
Who is Ida B Wells?
Born in 1862, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an investigative journalist, educator and one of the founders of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also known as the NAACP. She devoted her life to fighting against prejudice and inequality, especially towards Black women.