Calls For Successors as Task Force Appointed on Confederate Statue’s Fate

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Confederate flags are coming down across the south like star and barred dominoes. The voices are growing louder, less partisan and from higher seats of power.

The State of Texas has acknowledged that an official license plate is no place for a Confederate Flag, and now it is time for the University of Texas to acknowledge that those who flew that banner will always represent a divided nation.

After the petition posted by UT Student President Xavier M. Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu picked up on the momentum of the national conversation, and the statue was once again vandalized, University President Greg Fenves announced that a committee will be formed to present recommendations to the Administration before the end of summer.  

“I understand the students’ concerns and am looking to review the full history, significance and impact of the statues on campus…To that end, the task force should ensure its work accurately represents history, values the fundamental principle that all people deserve respect, and serves to ensure these principles are preserved for the benefit of future students.”

According to the Austin Chronicle, “as we reported in May, both former President Bill Powers and former President Larry Faulkner put together task forces to look into the statues – but neither president ever did anything about them.”

We must keep the pressure up by continuing the grow the voice of this movement through petition signatures, #NoDavisOnCampus and avoid distractions like vandalism. Such acts can be useful to draw attention to issues that are being ignored, but this one is now front and center and it should stay there until it is resolved. Regardless of whether the vandalism is helpful to the cause of removal, it must be in the back of Administrations mind that the best way to preserve the statues without further incident is in a museum. It must be of equal conscience that they are not seen as removing it due to pressure by acts of vandalism.

We must keep up the heat on high profile alums like Governor Greg Abbott, and the 12 member task force,  to add their voices to the call for the statue’s removal. He has a tendency to stand with southern governors in matters opposing the federal government, and with multiple state leaders calling for the removal of the flag on state grounds, this is one opportunity to join in unity with all of America.

One recommendation is to replace the series of Confederate statues with actual unifying figures like Herman Sweatt. Sweatt was the Civil Rights advocate who fought segregation in court and won the right to attend the University of Texas Law School.

If there are large donor alums who want to leave the statues standing, they have not been very vocal or organized. The loudest voices of opposition have been the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who recently lost in Supreme Court, along with those who claim that removing the statue would “erase” part of history. To the SCV, I say honor your loved ones how you wish, but don’t expect the state, now a part of the “Union,” to endorse their values or fly their flag. The idea of “Heritage not Hate” may be good enough for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but it is not good enough for these “United States.”

To the self appointed history preservationists, I say we must make it history first. It is not enough to say it was, “created as a conciliatory acknowledgement that the wounds from the Civil War were finally beginning to heal.” Remember when George W. Bush stood in front of a sign that read “Mission Accomplished?” Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that it is just too soon.

I can’t help but wonder the impact that the legitimization of such symbols by government institutions has on impressionable minds. In one case, we see it influenced a mass murderer full of hate, but in many others it simply has created an uncomfortable environment in a place where citizens should feel empowered by the government and not unwelcomed.

America can and has changed, and the fulfillment of our promise for equal opportunity is always possible if we chose work hard enough. The Confederacy on the other hand, whether it represents hate or not, will always represent a divided nation.

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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