By George E. Curry
Can you image waving a flag that honors Benedict Arnold, a name synonymous with treason?
How about traveling to work and back on Aldrich Ames Boulevard, a tribute to the CIA mole who secretly worked for the Russians?
Should we erect a statute of Robert Hanssen, the FBI computer and wiretapping expert who spent most of his career spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, in the hallway of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.?
Do you favor naming public schools attended mostly by Jews after Fritz Kuhn to honor the German who lived in the U.S. and was in charge of the famous U.S. Nazi group, the German-American Bund?
If you are repulsed by the thought of honoring those traitors, you should be equally indignant at the thought of erecting statues and naming streets and schools after Confederate traitors.
Make no mistake about it: Those who declared war on the Union were traitors, defined as “a person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc.”
Eleven Southern states broke from the Union for the same reason.
Writing in his book, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and identity in the Civil War South, Drew Gilpin Faust observed, “leaders of the secession movement across the South cited slavery as the most compelling reason for southern independence.”
Alexander Stephens, in what became known as the Cornerstone Speech, said on March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Ga., “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.”
He explained, “[The Confederate] “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.”
Theses historical facts notwithstanding, a majority of Americans – 57 percent – view the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride rather than racism, according to a recent CNN poll.
It gets more interesting when the numbers are broken down by race. Of Whites polled, only 25 percent view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. However, 72 percent of Blacks associate the flag with racism.
It is time to bring down the Confederate flag of hate, but we shouldn’t stop there. We should remove the monuments and tributes to the Civil War traitors from public buildings and streets. If Robert J. Bentley, the Republican governor of Alabama, can voluntarily remove four Confederate flags from the Capitol grounds in Montgomery and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can recommend that a statue of Kentucky-born Jefferson Davis be removed from the state Capitol, it is time to remove the tributes to Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol.
Visitors to the Capitol are greeted by towering statues of 11 former Confederate leaders, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander H. Stephens and Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, said it’s time for the statues to be removed.
He told the Associated Press, “Young children, school children, walk by these statues, and those of us who serve in the Congress, we have to get our own house in order … We have to have a cleansing in this place.”
There is still cleansing to be done at the state level.
Despite the removal the Confederate flags from the Capitol grounds in Alabama, for example, the state annually celebrates Confederate Memorial Day, Jefferson Davis’ birthday, and honors Robert E. Lee on the same day it observes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.
A large statue of Jefferson Davis on the Capitol grounds overlooks Dexter Avenue, where Dr. King pastored his first church. The Confederate Monument is still on the grounds and a star still marks the spot where Jefferson Davis took the oath as president of the Confederate states.
Mississippi also combines the birthdays of Dr. King and Robert E. Lee, observes Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April and combines national observance of Memorial Day with Jefferson Davis’ birthday as a state holiday.
In addition to Alabama and Mississippi, Confederate Memorial Day is also observed as a state holiday in Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Let the cleansing begin. Like Maj. General William T. Sherman, let’s march though Dixie and the rest of the nation until we rid the United States of tributes to traitors.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorgeand George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.