News came out last week that the Los Angeles Unified School District plans to name a school after Dr. Sammy Lee, the legendary Olympic diver who served as a longtime coach for another legendary Olympic diver, Greg Louganis. And while that's a wonderful development, it just shows again how backwards Orange County is with the times, and how soon we forget.
Fact is, Lee is ALL Orange County, having lived here since the 1950s, and having coached Louganis in South County, along with many other Olympic divers over the years. Plus, there's that whole civil-rights thing Orange County always tries to forget.
As I wrote the last time Orange County tried to forget Lee's legacy as a civil rights hero:
In 1954, Lee–an Army vet, licensed doctor, two-time gold-medal winner and recent recipient of the Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in the United States–tried to buy a house in Garden Grove but was refused. Twice. All because he was Asian. Garbage Grove's racism was condemned worldwide for the obvious reasons, and even Ed Sullivan and then-veep Richard Nixon spoke publicly in favor of Lee, who eventually did buy a home (Click here for a Hearst Agency picture with the telling caption, “Sammy Lee and wife now welcomed to Garden Grove”). His struggle to buy a house was an important step in the battle to end housing segregation in Orange County that ultimately culminated in the Mulkey v. Reitman Supreme Court case.
Garden Grove would be a logical place to name a school after Lee–hell, rename Leo Carrillo Elementary, which is named after a movie star with no connections to Garden Grove that no one remembers and who advocated for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Or, if you want to the ethnic route, you can also place such a school in Fullerton, Irvine, or Buena Park, which has a large Korean-American population. Or, if you want to go to where Lee made his mark, have Saddleback Valley Unified School District name a school after him, as Lee coached generations of kiddies down there.
And it's not like OC doesn't name schools after Asian-Americans: there's at least four. Come on, OC: do the right thing, for once!