Confederate General Braxton Bragg has never set foot in the North Shore town that bears his name, but his lingering shadow won’t fade anytime soon.
Nor, it seems, his name.
After struggling for nearly a year and a half with the painful issues of race, slavery and the mistreatment of local indigenous people, a citizens’ commission convened to determine whether the city should relinquish the name of the slave owner of the south found a consensus out of reach.
The group struggled to find cohesion on emotionally charged ground, but reached agreement on several recommendations. These were primarily aimed at righting the wrongs done to the Coast Indian tribes whose lands and people had been stolen in the past and ensuring that all residents and visitors feel welcomed and included by the Mendocino Coast community. .
But there was no agreement on the renaming idea, and a suggested new dedication from the city to another Bragg who didn’t have the general’s unpleasant heritage didn’t find traction over the course of the day. months when the commission met – the subject is so polarizing.
“As a commission, we have come to the conclusion that at present, because citizens are so divided, this commission cannot unanimously recommend a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question. of the name change,” Cesar Yanez told City Council Monday night as part of the commission’s final presentation.
Fort Bragg CA Citizens Commission Final Presentation.pdf
The remaining 10 members of the commission, which began in August 2020 with a slate of 18, voted 6-4 in favor of seeing the city renamed “in the not-too-distant future” before the end of their time together.
But in an unscientific survey conducted last year, the vast majority of participants opposed such a decision.
The survey drew 1,649 responses, with 56% of those voting ‘no’, compared to 32.5% voting ‘yes’. The others weren’t sure.
Because participation was limited to those who received and read paper city water bills or saw advertisements in the local newspaper, in City Council emails, or on Facebook, commissioners determined that the results were completely unreliable and only reflected strong feelings on both sides. . The way the survey was conducted also means people from out of town may have voted, and some people may have voted multiple times, Commissioner Christie Olson Day said.
“We did our best, and that’s what we got,” she said.
While the commissioners spoke primarily from a pre-approved script reflecting agreed-upon statements, the emotional complexity and controversy they had experienced was clear on either side of the written statements that several later submitted.
Those who expressed support for keeping the Fort Bragg name, as some commissioners and Councilman Lindy Peters did on Monday night, said Bragg’s serendipitous connection to their singular coastal town had nothing to do with racist sympathies.
“This town does not honor this man. Never,” said Peters, the only council member to speak at length about what had been a time set aside for the commission’s report. “We were named in 1857. We are now in 2020.”
Gabriel Quinn Maroney, a commissioner who had previously advocated for a new name, said he no longer believed the council should consider taking such a step, given widespread opposition.
“When this community is ready to change its name, if ever, that’s when it should happen, I think,” he said.
Others, like Commissioner Marshall Carr Jr., the only black commissioner after the death of another black member last year, said consensus on the name change issue had always been unlikely, being given the diversity of viewpoints sought for the commission in the first place.
But, he said, “I strongly believe that should be changed. This will give this town a chance to rebrand itself around inclusiveness and recognition of those who have been here before and in turn attract more tourism to our tourism driven economy.
The volunteer commission was named in the summer of 2020 as part of a national take on racism and the country’s history of slavery following the murder of George Floyd, a black man, under the custody of three white Minneapolis police officers.
This resulted in part in a campaign to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces and abandon all symbols glorifying the defense of black slavery. One of the results was a congressional vote to rename 10 army bases after Confederate military leaders, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Its namesake is Braxton Bragg.
Many in the predominantly white coastal town of Mendocino of about 7,200 people similarly believe they should part ways with the general, a US Army officer who distinguished himself in the American War. -Mexican and who later came out of retirement on his sugar cane plantation in Louisiana to serve as commander. in the Confederate Army and adviser to Southern President Jefferson Davis.