San Diego — a city named after a Christian religious figure — is a hot bed of political correctness as cities in San Diego county debate the use of the word “Christmas” in traditional parades and holiday festivals. Recent discussions on the issue have brought forward threats if the word Christmas is not removed.
The topic of changing the parade name wasn’t even on the planning commission’s agenda during a recent meeting. They were there to discuss street closures.
But the issue has been around a long time. In 2005, several La Jollans wanted the Christmas Parade’s name changed to something without reference to a specific religion, but the La Jolla Town Council voted down the proposal 11-10 in a secret ballot. The issue arose again in 2009/2010 but went nowhere. The subject is sensitive in La Jolla, which once was notorious for its anti-Semitism.
The parade has set up its own 501(c)(3) organization, and is now completely separate from the town council. Ann Kerr Bache, who heads the parade, says informal polls have been taken regularly since 2005, and 89 percent to 92 percent of respondents say they do not want the name changed. Sponsors and donors do not want a name change.
Opponents of “Christmas” in the event have taken to new sinister tactics to facilitate change.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten urged LJCPA trustees to deny the street closures until a more inclusive name is determined. Marten noted that the names of most district-wide school performances have been changed from “Christmas” to “holiday”. Marten suggested that students in the district could help come up with an alternative name as part of the “critical discourse” encouraged by the Common Core State Standards initiative. Many schools have marching bands and color guards that participate in the parade.
Marten was blunt in making threats. “I will consider going to my board in the future and making recommendations for whether or not it’s appropriate for our schools to be participating in parades that have names that are not as inclusive as we might like.”
It is especially galling that an unelected official would make threats before a planning commission meeting discussing street closures. If Marten really wanted to pull the schools from the event she could do so but would face the wrath of public opinion against the idea and likely be forever blamed for the change. By threatening the commission she is subverting public input on the matter.
LJCPA trustee Fran Zimmerman, who pulled the item from the LJCPA’s August consent agenda, noted that The Washington Post — which is a newspaper and a private enterprise — will no longer use the term “Redskins” when referring to its local NFL team in editorials. “The United Nations has asked The Netherlands to please rethink its centuries-old Christmas tradition of Black Peter, Santa Claus’s right-hand man, in Holland,” she said, noting the feeling of many that the icon perpetuates racist stereotypes. “I’m not a big advocate of times changing, but I can tell you they have,” she said.
The parade is largely funded by private dollars, and does not receive any money from the city.
Trustee Rob Whittemore favored denying the street closures to send a message to event organizers. “We have a private organization using a public facility and about the only way we have any leverage to get the organization to sort of come (in line) with the modern times and become more politically correct … is by denying the street closures,” he said.
Lead name-change proponent Howard Singer, of the San Diego County Diversity and Inclusiveness Group, noted that the names of similar parades around the county have been changed to faith-neutral names.
Trustee Dan Courtney countered that the LJCPA should not be used as a “tool” for Singer and his group to “pursue their agenda.”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate, and personally, I think it’s really sad that it’s come to this,” Courtney said. “The Christmas Parade is a great thing. It makes everybody happy and it should not be attacked like this.”
In July, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association voted to ask that La Jolla Christmas Parade organizers change the name to one that does not reference a particular religion.
What makes this issue thornier is the fact the Christmas is recognized as a secular holiday by the Federal government. All sources tied to this discussion failed to explain what about the word Christmas in the context of the LaJolla event was in fact religious or offensive.
Never has there been a public protest of the event and last year several faith groups were recognized within the parade. Many fail to see what the problem is.