The following letter is a submission from a community member regarding the Acalanes Don mascot. If you are interested in submitting a response, please comment below or use the website submissions page.
By Ron Jones, Community Member
Hello to the current students, faculty and staff of Acalanes High School. I am an alumnus from the Class of 1973. The Class of ’73 is having our 50th year reunion the weekend of April 14th through the 16th. It was just brought to the attention of the members of the reunion committee that there is a “movement” to remove the “Don” as the school’s mascot. Though the following opinion is primarily my own, it has been shared and agreed with by most, if not all of the reunion committee.
First, I would first like to say that as an alumnus, I have always been very proud of my education at Acalanes High School and my identity as a former Acalanes Don. I would also like to add that I am about as liberally minded as any student to ever graduate from Acalanes. So, I agree that some name and mascot changes that have been made recently around the country that removed some derogatory and racist terminology were perhaps needed. However, this movement to remove the name and term “Don” does not make any sense.
The history of Lafayette and for that matter California are indelibly tied to our Spanish/Mexican heritage. California was a part of Mexico until the US, through an act of war, forced Mexico to sell huge portions of it’s land as part of United States’ “Manifest Destiny.” Not a great thing for the native Americans or the Mexicans. The original land grant of Rancho Acalanes was given to Candelario Valencia, a Mexican who would have been addressed with respect, as “Don” Valencia. History is important, and understanding our culture is important. Using the term “Don” is in no way disrespectful but in actuality can only be viewed as a way both to honor our past but also instill in current and future Dons that they can and should carry themselves with pride, honor and dignity.
Since I am married to a Mexican and have adopted Mexican children as my daughter and son, I feel a little extra qualified to explain the following; The term Don is all about showing respect for a Distinguished person. Don for gentleman and Doña for a woman. So, if you are a Don or Doña, you should carry yourself in a proud and respectful manner, showing courtesy to others while maintaining pride and determination in yourself.
Our community and school’s heritage, like it or not, is, closely tied to Mexico. Despite the continuing fact that Lafayette is a predominately white community does not mean that we should erase our past and not acknowledge a part of our culture and heritage. If you are going to eliminate the name “Don” then carrying that further you should also change the name of Acalanes since after all, it is in reference to a native American Miwok tribe called the Saclans. The Spanish, when Lafayette was part of Spain fought a war with the Saclans in 1797. So just like the term ”Don” refers to a respected gentleman, Acalanes is referring to the “Indians” that first settled in Lafayette. There is nothing derogatory or racist in either Acalanes or Don. These terms only acknowledge the community’s past and its heritage.
The film recently shown to students is only pointing out if anything, that the administration, faculty and past students and sorry, maybe the past Aklan Yearbook Staff, have not done a good job of teaching and interpreting the meaning, and displaying the proper respect, of a “DON.”
Please do not change another part of our community’s history.