Pretty much immediately after new-ish Board of Education President Matt Haney, who is also running for re-election in November, floated the idea of re-naming local schools in San Francisco for local figures of historical import rather than slaveholders — such as changing the name of George Washington High School to Maya Angelou High School, after the writer who herself attended George Washington — the administrator got plenty of flack, including a good amount of hate mail. You know, like this gem, which Haney posted in full on his Facebook page. "Were slaveholders wrong to have slaves?" A very provocative member of George Washington class of '90 wrote. "Yes, of course. But look at this: The lives of the slaves in America were far better than the lives they had in Africa."
Speaking to SFist, Haney clarified that he wanted to empower schools to choose names for themselves, rather than rename them at will, which he had no plans to do. “My intention was always just to create a space for conversation,” he added to the Examiner. “To let school communities know that this option is available and to encourage school communities that want to explore a name that they have pride and value in, to do so.”
Bill O'Reilly on Fox News was not a fan of the idea, or rather, saw fodder for his founding-father-worshipping fanbase: "Maya Angelou was a patriot who did a lot of good, but George Washington is a towering historical figure," the Ex quotes O'Reilly as saying on his program. That, and the original coverage, prompted a slew of calls and complaints to Haney, including racist remarks and threats of violence. “Some people maybe twisted it to make it seem as though this was going to be a heavy-handed, sweeping change without any input or contribution for the community, when actually the goal was to the contrary,” Haney said.
Also on Facebook, Haney wrote that he wanted "to be clear about something related to the school names conversation: Our focus as a district, and my focus, continues to be, as it always has been, 21st century educational opportunities for all of our students in safe, supportive and equitable learning environments." And, midst the hubbub he also posted this, a quote from Maya Angelou. "I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good."