First the San Francisco School Board decided to rename 44 schools because they are named after people with ties to racism or slavery. Now the Arts Department has taken a bold move by changing its name, “VAPA” because they say, “acronyms are a symptom of white supremacy culture.”
Schools have yet to reopen in San Francisco, but their Arts Department has continued to work toward ensuring that all students have access to quality arts education.
The director of that department said, “We are prioritizing antiracist arts instruction in our work.” So they got rid of the acronym “VAPA,” which is short for visual and performing arts.
From now on, they’ll simply be called SFUSD Arts Department.
“It is a very simple step we can take to just be referred to as the SFUSD Arts Department for families to better understand who we are,” explained Sam Bass, Director of the SFUSD Arts Department.
In a letter, he explains that acronyms are a symptom of white supremacy culture.
“The use of so many acronyms within the educational field often tends to alienate those who may not speak English to understand the acronym,” he added.
That’s based on a 1999 paper written by author Tema Okun titled “White Supremacy Culture.” Okun told me that, “Our culture perpetuates racism when things continue to be written down in a certain way.”
But the San Francisco Unified School District uses so many acronyms on a daily basis that if you go to their website there’s a section on how to find what their acronyms or abbreviations mean.
When we asked Mayor London Breed for her opinion, she was confused and thought we were asking her about the issue of renaming schools.
“We definitely need to have a robust conversation about what we need to do but not a rushed conversation,” said Mayor Breed.
So does that mean that the acronym SOTA which stands for School of the Arts should now be called the Ruth Asawa School, period?
“In the same sprit of getting rid of acronyms I do believe in calling it Ruth Asawa,” suggested Bass.
The school district told me there is no official policy or effort underway related to acronyms district wide.