To Be Black at Robert E. Lee High School

Last spring in Tyler, Texas, a small city two hours east of Dall, an African-American couple had a series of agonizing conversations at their kitchen table at night, talking softly after their children were in bed. Their daughter, the oldest child, loved cheerleading in junior high; she was eager to try out for the squad at the local public high school, where she was set to enroll as a freshman in the fall. But the name of this particular school in Tyler, a community that some residents like to think of as the western edge of the Old South, ate away at her parents. “We would ask ourselves, Are we really gonna have our daughter running around a football field yelling ‘I love Robert E. Lee’? the mother told me.

n the end, the couple decided to send their daughter to Robert E. Lee High School, where the student body is nearly sixty percent black and Latino. They considered a local private school, but it was expensive and farther away, and many of their daughter’s friends were going to Lee. “This should be an exciting and happy time for a family,” the mother, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared retaliation against her daughter, said “No one should have to go to a school named for their oppressor.

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