WCHS’s name should be changed

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Photo by Ela Jalil

WCHS’s name has undergone scrutiny after a petition created by Students for Real Heroes created a petition asking for a name change.

By Ela Jalil, News Editor

Winston Churchill is finally undergoing the scrutiny he deserves and calls to change WCHS’ name have caused both great outrage and happiness in our community. @StudentsForRealHeroes on Instagram led the charge and created a petition that now has more than 1,500 signatures. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has ensured that America can no longer ignore police brutality and racial inequality. One of the unintended bonuses of this movement is that it has shed a greater light on the figures that we hold up and celebrate in our society. Confederate statues are being torn down and street and school names are being changed. 

WCHS’ name should be changed because we need to start upholding people that truly deserve it and represent our current and diverse community.

Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for two non-consecutive terms during World War II. Due to his leadership, the United Kingdom never fell to Nazi rule. In addition, his inspiring speeches are world-renowned, a famous one being the finest hours speech, which our yearbook is named after. He is also occasionally known as “The Greatest Briton,” according to a 2002 BBC poll. 

Churchill should be respected for his accomplishments. However, people tend to gloss over his bad decisions, while in power, when remembering him. Everyone has flaws, but Churchill’s flaws were being a white supremacist, causing the deaths of millions of innocent people and upholding concentration camps and colonialist and imperialist rule. 

When hearing these statements about Churchill, people immediately jump to his defense, claiming that it was acceptable for the time, and we can’t judge people by today’s standards. However, according to a CNN article written by British professor of history, Richard Toye, “other people of similar vintage, including fellow Conservative imperialists, felt that his views were old-fashioned or even downright shocking.” 

When people champion Churchill as a person who fought for our democracy, one can wonder what democracy meant to Churchill and who he thought it applied to. It certainly did not apply to India, who was fighting for independence from British colonialism during World War II and for over 200 years prior. It did not apply to the Irish when Churchill ordered the Black and Tans (constables known for their extreme brutality) to put down Irish rebellions in 1920. Democracy only applied to certain people apparently, and none of those included the colonized countries of the British Empire. His views can most likely be explained by his statement “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph,” when writing about his views on Chinese people. 

Racist thinking leads to harmful actions towards marginalized groups, and this is especially evident in Churchill’s handling of the Bengal Famine, which led to the death of around 3 million people. AGU Journals found that the 1943 Bengal Famine was completely due to the failure of British policy. The Secretary State of India, Leo Amery, needed to beg Churchill to send food to India, and when he finally did it was only a mere fraction of what was necessary. Churchill did not take the suffering of Indian people seriously, stating “Famine or no Famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.”

In addition to all of these atrocities – why is an American school named after a British Prime Minister? In the petition created by Students for Real Heroes, they proposed Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and WEB Dubois as possible name changes. Montgomery County schools only have one school named after POC, and none named after women out of 26 schools. In addition, schools do not have to be named after people. New York City schools use the PS. system, and other schools across the country have opted for names like “Liberty High School” or “Justice High School”.

WCHS’s motto is “where every student belongs” – but how are Black and Brown students supposed to feel when they find out that Churchill thought they were inferior to him solely based off of their race?

 As an Indian American student it hurts me to know that Churchill said “I hate Indians, they are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” among so many other horrible things. I know that Churchill actively fought against the freedom of my people, and so I can not truly belong to this community, when we are upholding him as a model for excellence. I can not and will not ever see Churchill as a hero when I know how much he has hurt my people and so many other communities.  If there is any way that I can make sure that my name is not linked to Winston Churchill’s forever on paper, it is a chance that I will fight for.  

WCHS has an extremely diverse population, and we need to find a person that truly represents everyone and their values. By asking for the name change we are not trying to diminish the accomplishments of Churchill, but rather attempt to find someone where there is not as much calculus in determining whether they should be celebrated or not.