Very few of the decisions made by California’s leaders make any sense to me, though some are particularly reprehensible.
Such is the case with a new elementary school set to honor Tiburcio Vasquez.
Not exactly a household name, Vasquez was executed in 1875 for the murder of two individuals and is called “probably the most notorious bandit California ever saw” by the University of Southern California library.
With a rap sheet that extended back to his early teens, Vasquez stabbed a constable at the age of 14 and experts believe he actually murdered as many as six people.
Administrators tried desperately to paint Vasquez as someone worthy of an honor, as the school district’s superintendent called him “a revolutionary” and a member of the school’s naming committee claimed “he was framed by the system at that time.”
Continuing the effort to justify naming an elementary school after him, the committee member said Vasquez “took from the rich and gave to the poor” and has seen his character sullied by “history … written by mainstream whites.”
He views the 19th century murderer as “sort of a hero” to the Mexican-American community.
“When you have individuals who have been struggling for so long, dealing with oppression and systematic oppression, then you bring up leaders who have fought against resistance,” he said, “of course they’re going to be role models to you.”
As one might expect, even in California there are many who disapprove of honoring such an infamous Californian.
The local mayor said he leads “a crime fighting city,” explaining residents “don’t want to be honoring people who are criminals. We want to honor good people.”
Responding to his comments, the naming committee member said the mayor “needs to learn history. He should not be making comments based on what he finds on Google.”
Another local leader shared the mayor’s sentiment, though.
One city councilman said there is a “big difference between naming a school after people in our history who have shown leadership and courage and those disrespectful of common law and decency.”
City and county law enforcement officials released a statement in which they expressed “extreme disappointment” with the school district’s decision.
Parents weighed in, too, as one told the school board they “would not name a school Charles Manson Elementary, Ted Bundy Middle School or Bernie Madoff High.”