Nice Time: Virginia To Stop Celebrating Slave-Owning Traitors!
The Virginia Senate just voted to end the abomination that was Lee-Jackson Day. This was a state holiday commemorating Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Both men fought on the asshole side of the Civil War. Lee enjoyed the holiday as a solo act starting in 1899. That was just 24 years after he surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. "Stonewall" Jackson joined the party in 1904. In somewhat related news, the Virginia Senate is now led by Democrats. (Not the Civil War kind.)
Lee-Jackson Day was merely an insult to Virginia's black population until 1983, when it also became an exercise in pettiness. That's when the Virginia legislature merged the holiday with the new federal holiday for Martin Luther King, who neither owned slaves nor waged bloody war against the United States. It was billed as "Lee-Jackson-King Day" in supposed honor of "defenders of causes," one racist and treasonous, the other actually reflective of America at its best. This went on until 2000 when the two holidays were finally separated. Lee-Jackson Day was observed the Friday before MLK Day, so Virginians could kick off their four-day weekend with a Civil War-themed parade and a gala ball! Fiddle-dee-dee, Miss Scarlett!
All 21 Senate Democrats voted to secede from Lee-Jackson Day. They were joined by one almost respectable Republican, Siobhan S. Dunnavant. The bill heads to the House where the Democrats run the show as well. Gov. Ralph Northam, continuing his blackface penance, expressed his support for the bill.
NORTHAM: I don't think there's any secret that it's in honor of two individuals who fought to prolong slavery, which is not a proud aspect of Virginia's history.
Virginia will replace Lee-Jackson Day with a state holiday for Election Day. This is a vast improvement because we want to encourage people to vote, not own other people. Republicans in the state legislature had fought like hell over the years to keep the union of Lee-Jackson Day intact, but now their cause is truly lost. Republican Sen. Mark J. Peake argued for preserving Lee-Jackson Day in recognition of Virginia's "complicated history."
PEAKE: We can promote everyone, we can promote diversity. We can add things without taking away or tearing down other things.
Oh, boo hoo! Conservatives suddenly hop on the diversity bandwagon when it comes to honoring white supremacists -- and not even successful ones. We already honor slave owners who won wars. There's no participation trophies for white supremacists who had their asses kicked. Peake should consider promoting Virginians who were on the correct side of history. Moncure Conway was the, uhm, "black sheep" of his "prominent slave-holding family." He was a "radical" who supported abolition and women's suffrage. He accompanied more than 30 enslaved people from his family's home on a dangerous train ride through slave-holding Maryland to freedom in Yellow Springs, Ohio. That is a white Virginian worth honoring. We should never forget Lee and Jackson or the atrocities they committed, but there's no reason we should celebrate them -- certainly not in the same breath as Dr. King, who dreamed of freedom for all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).