Tag Archives: Confederate States of America

AISD might join important national debate

Amarillo isn’t known as a community to get involved deeply in intense national debates.

So it is with some surprise that I have learned that the Amarillo Independent School District is considering whether to change the name of an elementary school named after a Confederate army general.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School is now in the AISD crosshairs, joining other such public structures that have been targeted in the wake of recent controversy surrounding the a sad and tragic chapter in our nation’s history.

Lee School sits in the middle of a largely African-American neighborhood. We all know, of course, who Robert E. Lee was. For those who don’t, I’ll just explain briefly: He was the commander of Confederate army forces that fought on the losing side of the American Civil War. Oh, and why did the Confederates fight against the United States of America? They wanted to break up the Union.

Those who fought for the Confederacy fought against the United States. By my way of looking at it, the Confederates were traitors. Do we honor them, therefore, by putting their names on public buildings?

So, AISD trustees next week are going to visit with legal counsel to discuss a possible name change. The decision to consider such a thing has met with approval from local NAACP leaders.

AISD building-naming policy follows that new schools are named after the neighborhood they serve. AISD does make some exceptions, such as naming a school in a largely black neighborhood after a man who fought to preserve slavery.

This issue came to a full boil in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., riot involving white supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis who fought against counter protesters. It’s simmered down somewhat, but a serious national conversation has continued.

It has arrived in Amarillo, Texas.

AISD board president James Austin said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on whether to support a name change. That’s fine. Take your time, Mr. President.

I happen to think a name change is in order. But that’s just me.

‘Socialistic fear mongers’? C’mon, Commissioner Miller

Sid Miller thinks badly of Six Flag of Texas’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from its entrance in Arlington.

The state agriculture commissioner is entitled to his opinion. I wonder, though, why someone with responsibility of Texas farm and ranch policy would weigh in on a matter over which he has zero influence.

He is an elected public official. Miller, thus, is entitled to speak out.

Since he is an elected official and since he has taken his anger out on Six Flags, I intend to respond briefly here.

First, pipe down. Second, the Confederate flag represents something quite different to millions of Miller’s fellow Texans. As the Texas Tribune reported: “The monuments honoring our southern soldiers are but a first step in a trend that very well could eventually bring down the American flag at some point if this trend is allowed to continue,” Miller said. “I was extremely disappointed to hear that Six Flags over Texas in Arlington had succumb to this scourge of race baiting, liberal activism and that the company had decided to bring down the six historic flags that flew over Texas.”

Good grief, dude! No one is going to “bring down the American flag.” Settle down, commissioner.

There’s also this from the Tribune: In his statement, Miller suggested the park was “implying that one should look upon [the removed flags] with shame and dismay,” and appeasing a  “band of socialistic fear mongers.”

Sheesh.

The monuments honoring “our southern soldiers” also remind many of us that the Confederacy was formed out of an act of treason. It took form when states — such as Texas — seceded from the Union and then went to war with the United States of America.

Why did they do that? They went to war to fight for the right of states to continue hold human beings in bondage, to keep them enslaved.

All Six Flags did was take down the Confederate flag — one of the flags under which Texas has existed — because the Confederacy represents division, bloodshed and, yes, slavery. It chose instead to fly just Old Glory at its front gate.

What’s so wrong with flying the Red, White and Blue?

Put Confederates in museums, and study what they did

I suppose it’s time to make a decision on what I think we should do with these Confederates statues scattered around many of our states.

Put ’em in museums. Make displays of them and then explain to visitors who these men were, what they did and tell the world about the consequences of their actions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in this week on the subject in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., mayhem that left a young woman and two Virginia state troopers dead. The pro-Nazi/white supremacist/Klan march prompted a counter protest that turned violent.

And for what? Because the hate groups sought to protest the removal of a statue from a public park of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who led the army that fought against the United States of America.

According to the Texas Tribune  — “Racist and hate-filled violence – in any form — is never acceptable, and as Governor I have acted to quell it,” Abbott said in the statement. “My goal as governor is to eliminate the racist and hate-filled environment we are seeing in our country today.”

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future. As Governor, I will advance that future through peace, not violence, and I will do all I can to keep our citizens safe.”

Those are noble words and sentiments. I am not going to go the distance on these monuments. I share Gov. Abbott’s view that they shouldn’t be torn down and destroyed. But I also share the view of those who wonder why we “honor” individuals who turned on the Republic, ignited a bloody Civil War and fought to preserve “states’ rights” to enslave human beings.

These traitors to the nation don’t deserve to be honored with parks and structures that carry their names. They don’t deserve to have statues displayed in public places frequented by Americans who are direct descendants of those who had been kept in bondage.

I rather would see these monuments relocated as museum pieces accompanied by narratives that explain who they are and the role they played in that terrible, dark chapter in our otherwise glorious national story.

The governor said removing the statues “won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”

It shouldn’t erase the past, governor. As for the future, well, we advance it by keeping the egregious errors of our past in full view and presenting it in complete context to ensure we don’t repeat them.

Violence erupts in a city known for knowledge

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia and a community associated with one of our greatest Americans, our nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson.

Donald J. Trump has condemned the violence that has erupted there, as he should have done. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” the president said via Twitter. Exactly, Mr. President.

White nationalists, some of them wearing Ku Klux Klan garb, are protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. Their presence has prompted counter protests; thus, the clash that is threatening to blow the community apart.

I keep noticing something about the white nationalists marching through Charlottesville. It’s the presence of the Stars and Bars, the flag generally associated with the Confederate States of America, which seceded from the Union in 1861 and commenced the Civil War.

We’ve been debating for the past 150 or so years about the reason for the Civil War. Was it about slavery? About race? Was it about states’ rights? Or southern “heritage”?

Defenders of the Confederacy keep suggesting the Civil War wasn’t about race, or about slavery. They point to the “heritage” issue as the linchpin issue, and that the states didn’t want the federal government dictating to them how to run their internal affairs.

OK. If that’s the case, why do these white nationalists keep marching under the Stars and Bars? What does the presence of the Confederate symbol mean in that context?

For that matter, I should note, too, that one sees that symbol displayed with great “pride” at KKK rallies. Someone will have to explain to me the juxtaposition of the Stars and Bars and the KKK/white nationalists.

I’m all ears. You may now have the floor.

Should this statue come down?

Amarillo, Texas, isn’t known as a hotbed of social or political activism.

Folks are fairly laid back. They’re friendly. They go about their business. They talk to each other a lot about the weather, which keeps residents on their toes, given its volatility.

I want to bring up an issue that likely isn’t on the top of most Amarillo residents’ minds. There’s a statue at Ellwood Park that pays tribute to the soldiers of the Confederate States of America. It went up in 1931. The Daughters of the Confederacy got it done. It depicts a soldier leaning on a rifle. You see the pedestal in the picture attached to this blog post.

Why mention it here? Why today? They’re taking down Confederate statues in New Orleans, where I reckon there exists a good bit more social/political activism — not to mention a population demographic that would take offense at any “monument” to the Confederacy.

That demographic would be the African-American population majority in the Big Easy.

Amarillo’s population has a far smaller percentage of African-American residents, so a Confederate statue isn’t likely to rile rank-and-file Amarillo residents.

However, if a movement to take that statue down were to materialize, I am one Amarillo resident who wouldn’t register a single objection. Why? The nation fought a war from 1861 until 1865 that killed more Americans than any other conflict in the nation’s history.

States seceded from the Union. Texas was one of them. The root cause of the Civil War continues to be debated, largely in classrooms throughout the former Confederate states.

The cause, as I was taught, centered on whether some states wanted to retain slave ownership, despite opposition to that policy from the federal government. The slavery issue has morphed in many Americans’ minds over the years into a “states’ rights” matter.

I don’t get it. Then again, that’s how I was taught.

Do I expect a take-the-statue-down movement to erupt in our relatively sleepy city? Nope. If it did, I’d simply say: Go for it!

Can’t we just end this ‘secede’ talk? Now?

secede-sign_jpg_312x1000_q100

I can’t believe this topic is still being discussed in some dark corners of Texas.

Some people actually want the state to secede from the United States of America.

It won’t go anywhere. The Texas Republican Party — which controls almost everything in this state — won’t allow it.

And yet …

The talk continues to fester.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/04/19/texas-secession-debate-getting-kind-real/

The Texas Tribune reports that when the Texas Republican Party meets next month the talk is going to get some traction in some quarters.

Sheesh, already!

The article I’ve attached to this post lays out an interesting summary of state history. The most fascinating element of it is how — after the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost — a law came into being that denied all the former states of the Confederacy the ability to ever secede from the Union.

Which state brought that prohibition forward? Texas!

Here, though, is where we stand today — with elements of the state GOP talking openly about persuading Texans to actually vote to secede.

Then-Gov. Rick Perry didn’t help matters when, in 2009, during a TEA Party rally he talked about how Texans might secede if they got angry enough at the federal government. He took back those comments, saying he opposes secession.

http://highplainsblogger.com/2009/04/what-he-could-have-said/

His retraction seemed to fall on a few deaf ears.

I take heart in the belief that the state won’t secede. History tells us the only time we did so didn’t turn out so well. The state and the rest of the Confederacy lost the bloodiest war in American history.

If only some of our fellow Texans would just heed that lesson.

 

Fly ‘that flag’ proudly … on your own property

battle flag

An interesting question came to me the other day on my first day back at work after taking a two-week trek through Texas.

“Did you see many Confederate flags on your travels through the state?” my friend asked.

Well, not “many,” but certainly more than a tiny smattering.

Which brings me to the point. I do not object to the sight of the Confederate flag on people’s personal property: their motor vehicles or on their RVs when they’re parked.

It’s the public-property display of the flag that irks me — and no doubt others.

We pulled our fifth wheel through North Texas, down through the Piney Woods of East Texas (which is about as “Dixie” as it can get in Texas), along the Gulf Coast, back to the Hill Country … and then finally home.

We stayed at state parks and at private RV campsites along the way. And while we were on the move along the highways and back roads, we saw our share of battle flags flapping from the back of pickups and even a few of ’em flying in the breeze at RV sites where we were staying.

Do I assume that anyone who flies the flag is a flaming racist intent on restoring slave ownership, which was one of the reasons the South went to war with the United States of America from 1861 to 1865? Not for one moment.

The whole Confederate kerfuffle was based on displaying the flag on public, taxpayer-supported property … such as at the South Carolina statehouse grounds in Columbia. The South Carolina Legislature voted earlier this year to take the flag down after a gunman killed nine African-Americans at the Charleston church; a young suspect in the shooting then was revealed to be a staunch supporter of the Confederacy and the issues for which it stood.

Flying the Confederate battle flag on the back of a truck? Or in someone’s front yard? Or from their RV? Not a problem, or at least not enough of a problem to raise a ruckus.

I was gratified, though, that we didn’t see too many of them on our journey through Texas.

 

 

So long, President Davis

dec7davis

Weep not for the removal from the University of Texas-Austin grounds of a statue.

It is of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The statue removal has been the subject of considerable angst at the campus. In the end, a judge said the statue could be removed.  So today it was taken down, wrapped up, put on a truck and will be taken to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

It need not be shown in a public place where everyone — including those who could be offended by a statue depicting someone who led the secessionist movement in the 19th century.

Davis statue comes down

It’s one more action taken in the wake of that monstrous shooting in Charleston, S.C., of nine African-Americans by someone who allegedly declared his intention to start a race war. A young man has been charged with the crime and this young man is known to have racist views and has been pictured with symbols of the Confederacy.

Do you get why the Jefferson Davis statue might be highly offensive, say, to many of the students and faculty members at UT-Austin?

According to the Texas Tribune: “UT Student Body President Xavier Rotnofsky — who proposed the removal of the statue as part of his satirical campaign — said the fight is over and he is happy to see the statue being moved.

“’It’s very satisfying,’ Rotnofsky said. ‘What started off as a very far-fetched idea during the campaign — we came through with and the school year has barely started.’

“He said the national conversation after the South Carolina shooting and the passion of students on UT’s campus made the removal possible.”

Yes, Davis is a historical figure in the strictest definition of the word. He also was a traitor to the United States of America. Has anyone lately seen any statues, for instance, of Benedict Arnold?

So, put Davis’s likeness in a museum, where it can be looked at and studied by those with an interest in the Civil War.

And be sure it includes all the reasons that Davis and the Confederacy went to war against the Union in the first place.

Heritage? OK, let’s talk about it

All this talk about the Confederate battle flag has ignited a side discussion.

It deals with “heritage.”

There are those who contend that the battle flag doesn’t symbolize hatred, bigotry and enslavement. It symbolized people’s “heritage.” They say it’s a historical symbol that embodies a region’s pride.

Interesting, don’t you think?

The South Carolina Legislature’s decision to strike the flag from the statehouse grounds was a welcomed event to many of us. I cheer the fact that the flag is now down. It was put there to protest the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.

The flag, of course, is displayed prominently at Ku Klux Klan rallies. I don’t need to remind you what the KKK stands for.

Heritage? Do we want to look at other elements of our nation’s heritage? Do we want to salute these chapters?

* Our heritage denied women the right to vote from the founding of the Republic until 1920. Do we celebrate that denial?

* U.S. heritage also contains the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during much of World War II after the Roosevelt administration decided it couldn’t trust these Americans to be loyal to their country. Hey, let’s celebrate that event, too.

* Native Americans had their land taken from them as settlers marched westward in their conquest of our continent. Oh, and those settlers slaughtered millions of head of bison along the way. Let’s honor that, too.

The word “heritage” has become almost a throw-away line in the discussion about the Confederate battle flag.

The flag that’s been part of this discussion flew over the Army of Northern Virginia, which fought with other Confederate forces to tear apart the United States of America. The Confederates State of America sought to form a new nation and sought to preserve the right of human beings to own fellow human beings.

That’s the heritage some Americans want to honor?

No thank you.

Flag becomes easy target … with good reason

confederate flag

A flag is coming down today. TV networks are going to cover the event live, such as they did when we launched men to the moon or when we held state funerals for a murdered president.

This is a big deal for an important reason.

The flag — which symbolizes the kind of bigotry that helped launch the Civil War — is an easily recognizable symbol. Its intent today, in many quarters, is to inspire fear and to terrorize Americans.

It has to come down and it has to be placed in a museum, where adults can tell their children about what this flag means to so many millions of Americans.

The flag in question has flown on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., the state where just a few weeks ago nine African-Americans were slaughtered in a Charleston church. A young white man has been charged with murder; and that same young white man has been revealed to harbor hatred for African-Americans.

And yes, he’s displayed pictures of himself waving that Confederate battle flag.

You see the flag and any number of things come into your mind.

I see the flag as a symbol of oppression. That it would fly on public property — which is owned jointly by African-Americans and white Americans who see the flag as many of us do — is an insult in the extreme.

Moreover, the flag is different from many other Confederate symbols, such as statues.

There’s a statue at the west end of Ellwood Park here in Amarillo of a Confederate soldier. To be honest, I drove by it for years before I even knew what it represented. To this very day I cannot tell you who it represents, and I doubt most Amarillo residents even know the name of the individual depicted by that statue.

Should that artifact come down? I don’t believe its removal is as necessary as the removal of the flag from the statehouse grounds in South Carolina.

We know what the Confederate battle flag represents to many Americans.

And because it is so easily recognizable as what it is, then it needs to come down.

Today.