When some Texas politician is embarrassing our state in the news, we can usually take some solace in the old saying “thank God for Mississippi.” But when it comes to recognizing that slavery was the primary “states’ right” that the Civil War was fought over, we’re even behind those rebels of Ole Miss. Florida was years ahead of the curve, and now South Carolina and Alabama have joined the movement to remove the flag.
Now in Texas, some Democrats are asking Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Joe Straus to appoint a task force to evaluate the future of Confederate statues on Capitol grounds and whether they are, “historically accurate, whether they are appropriately located on the Capitol grounds, and whether any changes are needed.” The effort is being led by Texas’ only black state senators Rodney Ellis and Royce West. Their joined in the letter by their colleague Senator Judith Zaffirini and the longest serving black House members Senfronia Thompson and Sylvester Turner.
So far only Straus’ office has responded saying that the Speaker, “looks forward to visiting with these legislators about their concerns and would welcome a discussion with them and others about all monuments on the grounds of the Capitol.”
This call comes in the wake of positive steps by UT student government to petition their university’s administration to remove the long controversial statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. UT President Fenves has appointed a panel to make a recommendation on the future of several Confederate statues on the flagship campus in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday, a public forum was held and according to the live tweeting by the Austin American Statesman, “opponents of Confederate statuary outnumber supporters about 10-1.”
Governor Abbott, who is also a Longhorn, has a history of loudly decrying the federal government but there should still be room to decry those who wished to dissolve that union all together.
Supporters of the Confederate icons say taking down monuments and flags is erasing history, but lately that’s been the job of the State Board of Education. Removing a statue and placing it in a museum is not rewriting history, but the SBOE replacing the words “slave trade” with “Atlantic Triangular Trade” is. When the body elected to oversee the diffusion of knowledge to Texas children does not want to expose them to the darkest and most troubling parts of our past like Jim Crow laws and the KKK, that is the definition of white washing.
Yes the symbol of the Confederacy has always represented a divided nation that was split apart by the institution of slavery. Don’t take my word for it, take the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens in his “Cornerstone Speech” delivered weeks after the secession of 7 states (including Texas). In it he said, “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right.” Let me repeat for added emphasis that the Vice President of the Confederacy said slavery, “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”
It can hardly get more clear than that, but Stevens does a good job going the extra mile to do so. He recalled the “prevailing ideas” of the founding fathers “that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature” and affirms his belief that, “Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong.” He continues:
They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
I just wonder why it seems as though the loudest voices proclaiming the Confederacy is not rooted in racism, also seem to think it is everyone else that needs to learn their history.
The state leaders of Texas should immediately act to remove symbols of oppression just as U.S. soldiers did in Iraq when they helped Iraqis pull down statues of Saddam Hussein, and as George Bush did when he demanded of Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.”
Yes, the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, the right to own African Slaves because they were believed to be inferior, and that is nothing to be proud of.
Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.