Favorite

The shame of Robert E. Lee Day 

Last week, I was a student ambassador for Philander Smith College and the Social Justice Institute at a House Committee that discussed Rep. Nate Bell's proposal to divide the Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Overall my experience was eye-opening and suspicion-confirming. Arkansas is still very much so racially divided. Southern white men are proud of their Confederate heritage and can't be persuaded to see past their arrogance and "ancestry" in order to separately honor men regarded as American heroes, on separate days, to afford equal celebration and ease racial tension.

As a black woman, a genetic descendant of Africans, born in the United States of America, afforded equal protection under the law, I see no redeeming qualities in Robert E. Lee. My history books taught me that he was a secessionist and a racist. He waged a war that led to the deaths of thousands of men, he opposed giving freed slaves the right to vote and he argued that the brutal institution of American slavery was better for blacks than was living in Africa and that their bondage was necessary for their deliverance. He fought for white male autonomy, the oppression of blacks, secession from the Union and white supremacy. So, no, he is not an American hero in my eyes.

It is repulsive to me that the citizens of Arkansas believe that his legacy and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should be honored dually. They are complete opposites, standing for causes neither would support, and yet they share the same date on the state calendar.

King stood for freedom from oppression, justice for all Americans, equality in all aspects of American life, including employment, housing, education, food security and safety. King denounced racism and envisioned a world where "Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nullification' — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. ... That one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." And I am disheartened to say that in 2015 little significant progress has been made.

Along with the other African Americans in the chamber last week, I was called "colored" by John Crain, a Mountain Home lawyer who testified against the bill. I take extreme offense to the term and the casual usage presented by Crain with little regard to the synonymous nature of the word to the terms "nigger," "negro" and "nigris." The term "colored" is drenched in the stench of slavery, racism and bigotry and ultimately demeans my worth as a human being.

I am no more colored than a white man. I have been the same color all the days of my life, save for tropical vacations that deepened the glow of my melanin, while many of the white men in that hearing turned green after hearing those who spoke for the bill, turned blue in the face waiting for their turn to spew venom in defense of Robert E. Lee and blushed red from embarrassment after the "colored" remark was made.

Arkansas is still a Confederate state that institutionally supports racism by celebrating a holiday for a non-Arkansan who advocated for slavery and secession from the United States on the same day federally proclaimed to honor the legacy of a civil rights leader, diametrically opposed to Lee's ideology and practices. The legacy of King has not been protected in Arkansas and the struggle for equality, racial peace and justice is nowhere near its conclusion.

Kaya Herron is a senior at Philander Smith College and an intern at the Arkansas Times.

Favorite

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

More by Kaya Herron

  • Staff Picks: Bulldogs, BET cyphers, ginger scallion sauce and a message from Kaya

    So I'm a sucker for smush-face dogs — bulldogs, Frenchies, pugs. As such I could look at jmarcoz's Instagram account all day. Smush faces galore. Longer on the English variety than French, but plenty of both and lots and lots of puppy shots. You can have you cat shots. I'll take the bullies. How can you not smile?
    • Oct 16, 2015
  • Staff Picks: 'Documentary Now!', Google Cardboard, Daniel Romano, hangovers and more

    This week my brother introduced me to the IFC show "Documentary Now!" created by and starring Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Myers. Every episode is a parody of a canonical documentary, is the idea. So far I've only seen one, "The Eye Doesn't Lie," which reimagines Errol Morris' "The Thin Blue Line" so directly and successfully that Morris must be incredibly flattered (or confused).
    • Sep 25, 2015
  • Hillary Clinton speaks at Philander Smith

    Hillary Clinton spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters about 5:30 p.m. today at Philander Smith College. Her remarks tracked some familiar themes — equal pay for equal work, help for students to pay the rising cost of higher education.
    • Sep 21, 2015
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • No prison for mentally ill

    Recent research has shown that Arkansas is unique for its fast-growing prison population. The state also ranks among the lowest in the U.S. for access to mental health care. That's why Governor Hutchinson's 2017 budget allotment for the establishment of three crisis stabilization centers should be applauded.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Still wearing white

    On election night, after a long afternoon of poll-watching, I rushed home to change into my white pantsuit with the rhinestone "HRC" on the back and headed out to my local election party.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • What will a Trump administration mean for Arkansas's children and families?

    Trump doesn't have the political/policy track record that most candidates have when they become president, so the best we can do is make educated guesses based on his campaign promises and the priorities the Republican-controlled Congress will likely push with the new administration.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Fake economics

    • Trump economic proposals: Rates for Married-Joint filers: Less than $75,000: 12% More than $75,000 but…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • Mark your calendar for January 21, when Arkansans will march, rally, and ally for Arkansas…

    • on December 4, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation