San Francisco Officials Declare Acronyms Racist

School art program drops name, acronym because of 'white supremacy culture'

The former Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco / Getty Images
February 2, 2021

The San Francisco Unified School District's art program decided to drop its former name, "VAPA," because "acronyms are a symptom of white supremacy culture."

The acronym, which stood for "visual and performing arts," could "alienate" non-native English speakers, according to district art department director Sam Bass. The department will now just be referred to as the San Francisco Unified School District Art Department.

The decision to change the art department's name was one of a handful of antiracist measures the district voted to implement last week. Bass told ABC 7 San Francisco that the art department is working to prioritize "antiracist arts instruction."

The San Francisco school board is still forcing students to work from home even as it focuses on adopting antiracist policies—despite new data showing that remote learning has disproportionately impacted minority students' test scores, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday. The school district and teachers' union have so far failed to reach an agreement on how to return to the classroom safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to dropping the art department's acronym, the San Francisco school board moved to rename 44 schools, including those named after Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, because their namesakes were "inappropriate." The board also passed a resolution demanding that the district pay reparations to Native American and Native Alaskan communities. And it will rename an elementary school named after California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein because she raised a Confederate flag that flew in front of San Francisco City Hall while she was the city's mayor in 1984.

San Francisco school board president Gabriela López said the board is "committed" to dismantling "symbols of racism and White supremacy culture."

The district is one of many in the United States that implemented anti-racist measures following months of racial unrest in 2020. Fairfax County schools in Virginia developed a new antiracist curriculum based off information from the liberal nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center. And Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser created a committee that recommended renaming public schools and monuments with problematic namesakes.