Louie Welch: Odium at the podium.

Image: Wikipedia

So after much discussion in the media and deliberation at four HISD schools, Westbury and Lamar high schools and Hamilton and Welch middle schools have changed their mascots. Three of the schools' name changes make perfect sense: Lamar has ditched the Redskins in favor of the Texans and Hamilton has shelved the Indians in favor of the Huskies, which is also the new mascot for the former Rebels of Westbury, a school with a 44 percent African-American enrollment.

The last rebranding is more problematic. Welch has shelved the Warriors in favor the Wolf Pack. Not that there's anything wrong with "Wolf Pack"; but what was so offensive about Warriors to begin with? It's scarcely worth mentioning that not all nor even most of the people we think of as warriors were Native American.  A warrior can as easily be Germanic as Zulu, Samurai, Celtic, or Ultimate, and it can be applied more broadly to, as Dictionary.com puts it, "a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics."

Had Welch's sports teams been known as the Braves or the Chiefs, I would be 100 percent okay with the name change, but Warriors is just far too generic to merit this action, especially when there is an even more offensive name on the sign out in front of the school. 

That would be Louie Welch, the school's honored namesake. Houston's mayor from 1963 to 1973, Welch attempted a comeback in 1985, opposing incumbent Kathy Whitmire.  He was atop a ticket of fellow anti-gay candidates who called themselves "the Straight Slate," and according to a contemporary New York Times postmortem of the election, one in which Whitmire triumphed with ease and Welch spent his final days on the stump stressing "Mrs. Whitmire's backing of job rights for homosexuals and fear of AIDS...most of whose victims are homosexual."

In one of the most infamous gaffes in local political history, when asked the best way to halt the spread of AIDS, unaware that the mic before him was live, Welch said: "One of them is to shoot the queers."

To which the Concerned Citizens Against Stupidity responded with T-shirts and bumper stickers bearing this slogan:

It was the last mayoral election I can recall in which blatant bigotry played such a prominent role in Houston. The town in which it took place seems utterly unrecognizable from the vantage point of Annise Parker's Houston, with its family-friendly Gay Pride Parades and ever-increasing acceptance of gay men and lesbians at almost every level of society. 

So in changing the name of Louie Welch's Warriors, HISD couldn't see the skeleton in Houston's closet for the scattered bones of overly-sensitive political correctness. 

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