Controversial name change of California schools spurs protest from Chinese community

Updated 2018-03-29 14:40:05 Xinhua

A proposal to rename two middle schools in Palo Alto in northern California after a Japanese surname has spurred opposition from Chinese American parents who said the name hurts their feelings.

The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) on Tuesday night voted for Green and Fletcher from eight proposed names, including Fred Yamamoto, a local historical figure who had the same surname as wartime Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, mastermind of Pearl Harbor bombing more than 70 years ago.

Fred Yamanoto was a local resident who was held in an internment camp. He later joined the U.S. Army and died in battle during World War II.

The Chinese American parents were not satisfied with the candidacy of Yamamoto as a potential name because they said the name reminded them of the painful wartime history. Some of them said they also learned from the experience to "make your voice heard" and "take an active part in community activities."

The Chinese community in Palo Alto, which is home to Stanford University and the birthplace of Silicon Valley where many hi-tech companies are headquartered, has been voicing their opposition in the last two weeks through an online petition and an email campaign.

An online petition launched at change.org has garnered more than 1,300 signatures so far. The petition demands the PAUSD board give the schools geographic names so as not to "repeat the same mistake."

"The reason of changing the original names is because they hurt some people's feelings. Likewise, the board should take into consideration our feelings," a Chinese American parent named Liu Xin told Xinhua.

A group of more than 80 people were set up on WeChat, a popular networking app in China, to coordinate the opposition effort. The members even raised over 2,000 U.S. dollars to sponsor a demonstration, which was originally scheduled for Monday but later dropped for fear of incurring negative effects.

The parents also distributed flyers among students and other parents on the campuses of both schools. The flyer says: "We should not have a Yamamoto Middle School in Palo Alto. Such a name would be a gross iniquity and a blatant double standard."

Some of the Chinese parents said the different opinions were a result of different cultures and backgrounds.

"American schools don't pay enough attention to what happened in Asia during World War II. It's an opportunity for the American public to learn this history better," said another Chinese parent named Min Qiu.

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