Sifting through our Confederate attic: What stays, what goes

Lyndon_Johnson_and_Richard_Russell

Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr., right, “confers” with President Lyndon Johnson in 1963, under the watchful eye of Thomas Jefferson.

For 38 years, from 1933 to 1971, Richard B. Russell Jr. served Georgia as a U.S. senator, and for much of the time he may have been the single most powerful legislator in Washington, earning such respect from his peers that after his death, they named a Senate office building in his honor. A statue of Russell now stands in the rotunda of that building.

For those 38 years, Russell was also a stalwart defender of segregation and white supremacy, blocking every civil rights and anti-lynching law that came his way. He was, in short, a racist.

In the Daily Beast, Washington writer Mike Tomasky recounts that history in proposing that the Russell Senate Office Building be renamed. As Tomasky notes, Russell “may have done more to hold back civil rights and integration in this country than any other single individual.” And if Russell’s stance was perhaps “understandable, given the time and place of his birth and rearing,” Tomasky argues that “it’s no longer forgivable to such an extent that one of only three Senate office buildings has to bear his name.”

I disagree. I disagree not in defense of Russell, but in defense of history and all of its complications. We should not wipe people like Russell from our collective memory — he reminds us that otherwise good people can do very bad things. And there’s every indication that the building was named in his honor despite, not because of, his history of racism. That’s an important distinction.

Because where do you stop once you begin such a purging process? Our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is named for a major slaveowner. The Jefferson Memorial honors an eloquent advocate of liberty who kept slaves, sold slaves, fathered children with a slave and held some of his own children as slaves until his death.

That’s who we are. That’s our American heritage.

As I reminded Tomasky in a friendly email, he’s from West Virginia, where practically every building with an American flag flying in front of it is named in honor of Sen. Robert Byrd. Byrd served alongside Russell and had his own history of racism. To his credit, Byrd later publicly and emotionally recanted that racism, but then again, so did George Wallace.

In the 1940s, Byrd was even a member of the KKK in southern West Virginia, which means that he may have traveled in the same circles as Walter Bookman, my grandfather, a KKK member who lived 15 miles down the road. I never met my grandfather — he died before I was born — but I do know that he helped raise a darned good man in my father. Like I said, it gets complicated.

So yes, take down the Confederate flags, at Stone Mountain Park and elsewhere. They should not fly in any official or state-sanctioned capacity. Anything that smacks of an ongoing, current-day celebration of the Confederate cause should end, including state holidays.

But leave the statues of Civil War soldiers as a reminder of who we’ve been. Leave the carving of the Confederate leadership on Stone Mountain. Yes, the sculpture was begun during the rebirth of the KKK a century ago; yes, it was finished in the late ’50s, as a backlash against the civil rights era was building, which means it is as ugly in purpose as it is beautiful to behold.

Leave it. Because we need to remember.

Reader Comments 0

1025 comments
breckenridge
breckenridge

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz intends to make his opposition to the Supreme Court's decision last week to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide "front and center" in his presidential campaign.

In an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on Sunday in New York City, the GOP presidential hopeful doubled down on his belief that the court had overstepped its bounds in both the marriage decision and in upholding Obamacare. And as a result, Cruz said, the justices should be subject to elections and lose their lifetime appointments.

"This week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment — this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections," said Cruz.

And this strategy is what we call a Huge Mistake.  Not only is it a loser, but it hurts the entire republican party, paints them all as a bunch of regressives. 

Unfortunately the early GOP primary states are full of religious right nutters, so this type of appeal is necessary to do well.

 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@breckenridge Cruz and Trump could make conviennent foils during the debates for folks like Bush and Walker etc

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Jimmyliscious 

Isn't it amazing what the White people have done, seceding from European Oppression, fighting them off, starting the best  and most exceptional country ever, only to have a bunch of ingrates, black and brown, and pandering degenerate liberal politicians turn it into a 3rd world sh!thole?

***
So, leaving aside all the highly debatable American exceptionalist triumphalism there, you're suggesting that 'white people' did all of that?
If they built all of that - including their military victories - on the backs of their black population, then that kind of undercuts the argument doesn't it ?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Jimmylish is on a roll:


Yep, as I watch on TV that somehow the blacks and browns are getting smoked by white kids in public schools, and the only answer by the "educator" was to spend more money on the blacks and browns???

straker
straker

53% - "admitted lies"  "whoppers she won't confess to"


I wonder where you got this hit list?


Off some far right site?

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@straker it's d!ck morris' web site. you can post the link because it gets blocked, but you can google the text.

fedup52
fedup52

Pres Obama is doing all the job creating.  The GOP Congress and Senate is still fighting him.  53% should thank the President for saving his business.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Philo_Farnsworth

Obama : Job creating

Rooster : Sunrise

Speaking of the sun, could you pass this^^ information along to Doomy next time he posts about all the economic sunshine that emanated from Ronald Reagan's rear end for eight years?

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany


Rasmussen Reports found 63 percent of Americans want more controls at the border – and only 30 percent favor any type of amnesty or legalization for illegal immigrants currently in the country. Specifically, fully 55 percent say President Obama’s path to amnesty for 5 million or so illegals who now reside in America is just wrong, and they oppose it.


Mainstream?

honested
honested

@DownInAlbany 

raszmunckin?

Mainstream?

Find me ANY polls where they have been within 10% of accurate in the last 10 years and we'll chat.

Jimmyliscious
Jimmyliscious

@DownInAlbany Nope, mainstream now is a bunch of liberal arts major fudgepacking dumb f@cks on TV and in the newspapers thinking that they control the country....

Paul42
Paul42

@DownInAlbany

Doesn't seem the text at the link gives the same impression you do.

"In surveys dating back to 2008, as many as 69% of voters have agreed with the billionaire businessman that gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of those who are here illegally. "

"Yet, voters remain overwhelmingly positive about immigrants who come to the United States to work hard, support their families and pursue the American Dream. The problem is just 54% now believe that is what most immigrants have in mind."


JamVet
JamVet

@Jimmyliscious @DownInAlbany 

Poor Whiner/Welcher/FormerFakeFootballer AND the ever-morphing name changer, JimmyL!

They are among a few brilliant souls who realize that the evil TV and radio people are always out to get the good guy Republicans.

It's a damn shame it is!

No wonder the GOP and its acolytes have such a sh*tty reputation!!

It's not that they, their elected leaders and their fascistic product stink on ice, it's because of the evil media who is out to get them!

But then come to think of it, everybody else on the planet is too!

LOLOLOLOL!!!!!!

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Rassy's is about the last place I'd trust for issue polling--their history of crafting questions to effect an outcome is pretty legendary.

JamVet
JamVet

@Jimmyliscious @JamVet @DownInAlbany 

You forgot, addled one.

I'm one of those hook nosed, wealthy, money thieving, agitating Jews that your gal trish warned you about.

Don't you remember how she celebrated when two of us and that darkie were murdered in Mississippi, some years ago?!

Of course, you do!

Yep, she said they got what they deserved for not staying out of you racists' business!

Enjoy stewing in your bile, hater...

JamVet
JamVet

@Jimmyliscious @JamVet @DownInAlbany 

Sure, son.

i could find a middling fourth grader who has already surpassed you intellectually.

Just look at how you write!

LOLOLOLOL!!!!

You can barely put a subject and predicate (Google it) together...

td1234
td1234

@JamVet You mean you are as big a bigot when it comes to evangelicals as Trish was about race. Bigot

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@td1234 so you're coming to the aid of ol' jimmyliscious? wow . . . well, ok then. file that one away

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Jimmyliscious @DownInAlbany

mainstream now is a bunch of liberal arts major fudgepacking dumb f@cks on TV and in the newspapers

I hope you're not planning to get behind the wheel in this condition any time soon.

honested
honested

@td1234 @JamVet 

Bigot?

Why should anyone trust people who hear voices and want to give those voices force of law?

What he's expressing is normal self-protection.

Paul42
Paul42

@DownInAlbany

Have you checked with how that poll compares to others?  You may want to see what range most fall into.

breckenridge
breckenridge

Well, it's a new day.

What lie will Clinton force her supporters to defend today?

Hillary is a liar? Of course she is.  But again........the Hillary sucks theme is not going to get a republican into the White House. A GOP candidate will not win because he sucks less.  It will take much more than that.


Paul42
Paul42

@breckenridge

Romney tried the "Vote for me, I'm not Obama" strategy and he was defeated by five million votes.

Sounds like Republicans want to stick with the same strategy.  Hey, the results are what they want:  go to the 'whine and complain' section rather than the 'do something constructive and fix stuff' section.

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

If we clean out our confederate attic and move it to our confederate basement

will it really be worth the effort ?

honested
honested

@barkingfrog 

Heck, most of the stuff is too moldy and fetid to make a good bonfire anyways.

KUTGF
KUTGF

@barkingfrog  Do they hold KKK meetings there or just civil war reenactments?  You do seem to want to trivialize the issues regarding a flag and other matters that was used to terrorize a race as well as ignore most of the history of why for many of the displays. 

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

@KUTGF @barkingfrog 

Amazing the inability to comprehend. My point being moving the stuff from

statehouse to museum does not get rid of it. Trivial minds see trivial drivel.

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@Jimmyliscious that or they'll have slaughtered all male followers of your White Exceptionalism Party, taken your women and turned your children into slaves. 

Jimmyliscious
Jimmyliscious

@KUTGF @barkingfrog 2000 years from now they will still be using it as an excuse not to better themselves or assimilate with productive society,

KUTGF
KUTGF

@barkingfrog @KUTGF  Perhaps it was a failure in your communication.  But you are right the move would not get rid of it.  It would however put it in the proper place. 

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

@KUTGF @barkingfrog 

Still on state property is proper ? I thought that was the entire

argument for getting it moved. Hope this meets your standards

for understanding.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@KUTGF @barkingfrog wah, wah, wah.

They don't see it the same way that I do! 

They are BAD people.

Do you have time to wait on a wahbulance or should we call you a taxi?