‘If you’re removing the name of Thomas Jefferson, one oppressor, the name of Obama is another oppressor,’ said an activist.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
In the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, Illinois, the school board recently floated the idea of changing the name of a local middle school. Some members of the community suggested that Thomas Jefferson Middle School should be renamed to honor former president Barack Obama.
But at a fiery school board hearing on Tuesday, several people, including one school board member, made it clear why they believed Obama was an inappropriate choice.
“I will not be part of renaming a school after someone who did not and does not represent the undocumented community,” said school board member Edgar Castellanos, who told ABC7 Chicago that he was brought to U.S. illegally when he was a child.
“From the time Barack Obama became president until 2017 when he left, he today is still the highest-ranking president with deportations in our nation,” said Julie Contreras, an immigration activist.
Referencing Obama’s campaign promises of comprehensive immigration reform, she said she felt betrayed by his actions while he was in office. “We feel that Barack Obama did disservice to us. He denied us, and he didn’t stop the deportations, the way he promised,” she said.
“If you’re removing the name of Thomas Jefferson, one oppressor, the name of Obama is another oppressor, and our families do not want to see that name,” she added.
Conservative critics would balk at calling Thomas Jefferson an “oppressor,” one of America’s Founding Fathers and the man who composed the Declaration of Independence. But even progressives may start to wonder where all this is leading when the nation’s first black president is also labeled as an “oppressor.”
But for Waukegan activists, Obama represents what they cite as an overly harsh and racist immigration system. Noting that more than 3 million people were deported during Obama’s time in office, he is a symbol of families being torn apart, explained Waukegan local Oscar Arias.
“That’s many families that were affected and separated, many of whom reside right here in Waukegan,” Arias said. “The fear that many of my friends faced of never seeing their parents again after coming home from school still resonates with me.”
Arias said that the school should be named after civil rights activist John Lewis instead.
“Lewis truly embodies the progressive and multicultural spirit of Waukegan,” Arias said.