It’s Still Confederate Heroes Day in Texas

Tomorrow is Confederate Heroes Day in Texas. If it seems oddly coincidental that Confederate Heroes Day shows up on the same weekend we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, that’s because it’s not a coincidence.

In 1973 the Illinois Legislature was the first in the nation to create an official holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. That same year, the Texas Legislature responded to rising calls for a celebration of MLK’s life and work with a typically passive-aggressive swipe at the civil rights movement.

Since the 1930’s Robert E. Lee’s birthday on January 19th had been a minor state holiday. In 1973 the Texas Legislature consolidated it with a celebration of Jefferson Davis’ birthday to create a brand new, totally race-neutral Confederate Heroes Day. Of course, any overlap on the calendar with MLK’s birthday was pure, race-blind accident.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. That cheap, spiteful move by the Texas Legislature happened in an era of one-party Democratic rule. Republicans are fond of pointing out that Democrats ran the South throughout the Civil Rights Era and were responsible for many of the worst atrocities carried out against African-Americans. If the rise of the Republican Party in the South had been inspired by anything other than party-switching by Democrats angry over desegregation, you’d expect the new Republican majority would have immediately removed the idols of the Confederate cult. Strangely, that hasn’t occurred.

Representatives from the Party of Lincoln in the Texas Legislature could cancel Confederate Heroes Day in ten minutes if they wanted to. Or if they just wanted to be conciliatory, they could at least move it to line up with similar commemoration dates in other states later in the spring, usually in April. It would acknowledge the former Democratic legislature’s ugly motives in setting the date in January and emphasize the state’s commitment to Dr. King’s legacy and memory under a new, more enlightened Republican regime.

Of course, that won’t happen. The reason it will not happen is that the Republicans who hold single-party rule in Texas now are the heirs of single-party Democratic rule back then. In fact, some of them are literally the same people sitting under a different party banner. Thirty years ago, Rick Perry was a Democrat and Elizabeth Warren was a Republican. Something as innocuous as attempting to change the date of a holiday hardly anyone knows exists would bring the racist rats out the Dixiecrat woodpile. Southern conservatives who now vote Republican would place relentless pressure on their leaders politicians not to “back down” to “political correctness.” The Civil War isn’t over, and the good guys haven’t won yet.

6 Comments

  1. Our Constitution stated high ideals of equality but it was designed and limited to and for white people. And, within that race, propertied whites. There is a reason the Statue of Liberty faces east.

    DJT is a mirror into the soul of America, and what we see should shame us all. Every republican member of Congress can posture over Steve King’s remarks but they all share these views – with greater subtlety but in every action they take and don’t take. This GOP is of far greater concern to me than the despicable man they indulge and abett. They are the hypocrites , not king. He’s merely an honest racist.

    As we celebrate a holiday for a man who stood for and gave his life for ideals of America that were never intended for people like him, we must continue to work to broaden equality for all Americans.

    I wonder how many people who share King’s views (secretly of course) are going to go to work on this holiday because , after all, to celebrate the holiday would be a betrayal of their beliefs, wouldn’t it?

  2. “”The Civil War isn’t over, and the good guys haven’t won yet.”

    That’s a main theme in Davin Brin’s Blog when he talks politics- the notion of a Civil War that’s been going on from Colonial times to the present, that periodically flares up and dies down. IIRC this is flare up #8.

    It is interesting to note that Robert E. Lee himself was against all these memorials to the Confederacy. It’s like the North win the war, but the South won the peace.

      1. EJ

        The price of peace, as Foch said, is eternal vigilance, because one cannot truly destroy the dark side of humanity. When vigilance fails it creeps back.

        I think the argument here is that the United States Army, at great human cost and with many foreign volunteers, succeeded in temporarily suppressing the overt exploitation of Black Americans. However, they did not have the stomach for eternal vigilance, and so the darkness crept back not only into the South but through all the White people of America.

        Is it just me or is there something very Tolkien about this?

    1. I read David Brin. Very smart man. According to Brin (condensed) In the north trades men, farmers and artisans settled. They promote polices that favor working people. In the South the Feudalism system was transplanted. One I absorbed this idea a lot of our history and current politics made sense.

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