Dixie is a nickname for the southern U.S. states that formed the pro-slavery Confederacy in 1860, sparking the Civil War. The legacy of the Confederacy prompts political, legal and cultural conflicts to this day.
Those who support changing the name say the district was named Dixie by James Miller, the school founder, on a dare by Confederate sympathizers. Those who oppose the change say the school system was named for Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian woman that Miller knew in the 1840s.
The name-change issue has generated heated debate in San Rafael, an overwhelmingly white city of 59,000 people, with some insisting the Dixie name is racially insensitive while others complain the proposed change is political correctness run amok.
Both sides spoke out during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“You know Dixie is a racist name, so change it,” said Bali Simon, a fifth-grader at Dixie Elementary School. “I’m hoping I can go back to school next fall proud of our new district name.”
An opponent of the name change, Mette Nygard, said the “ugly insinuations” tarnished Miller’s reputation.