It’s a small thing in the litany of injustices in today’s world — a name that echoes a discriminatory past in San Diego.
In an era when December holiday events strive for an ecumenical tone, the annual parade in La Jolla remains the La Jolla Christmas Parade.
Purposeful or not, the name is a distant echo of casual antisemitism, of a time when Jews couldn’t buy property in the coastal community. The infamous restrictive covenants kept them out.
That ended a long time ago, even before federal civil rights legislation, when the community had to choose between keeping the restrictions or becoming home to UC San Diego. Now there are four synagogues and many Jewish residents.
But the echo of the past reverberates. Just this year a center for Jewish college students finally opened after a two-decade battle. The neighborhood opposed developing a vacant, weed-strewn traffic island, arguing that the center would disrupt their way of life. Yet Catholic, Lutheran and Mormon students long had similar centers.
The official name of the La Jolla parade includes the qualifier “and holiday festival,” which is an event that takes place at the same time as the parade, but the primary focus is on Christmas.
Elsewhere in San Diego, holiday events recognize the the increasing ecumenical nature of our society. “Christmas on the Prado” became “December Nights” in 2002. In the county’s second city, Chula Vista, it’s “Starlight Nights.” On San Diego Bay, the yachting community organizes the “Parade of Lights.”
The La Jolla parade’s name has come up for criticism many times in the past, but the name has endured. Perhaps the parade can take some cover amid America’s culture wars, quietly opposing what Donald Trump called the “war on Christmas.” Maybe it would be “woke” to change.
There’s certainly no requirement for the La Jolla event to change its name. The organization that puts it on is a private, nonprofit foundation. It has a First Amendment right to choose its name.
But in America’s Finest City, in its most recognized coastal neighborhood, a more inclusive name would go a long way toward silencing the echoes of a discriminatory past.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.