It seems like every progressive-thinking town has a Martin Luther King Boulevard. Rochester has chosen to make its obligatory token gesture in the form of Gibbs Elementary. George Gibbs, some of you may know, accompanied Admiral Byrd on one of Byrd’s later Antarctic expeditions becoming the first African-American to reach the South Pole.
The naming of the school, though, was not without controversy and one has to wonder how honored Gibbs would feel if he knew that white guilt and not community input was the deciding factor in the name choice.
Worse, the school’s name is merely a gesture that slights the bigger issue, as do the MLK Blvds across the nation. If we really wanted to honor Gibbs’ commitment and accomplishments, wouldn’t we want the person leading the school, i.e., its principal, to be a person of color? And wouldn’t we want more than just 10% of the teachers to be men, especially when the presence of a positive male role model in children’s lives keeps them from being “at risk?”
That would honor Gibbs’ legacy. That would be progressive.