Favorite

Don't cry for Robert E. Lee 

Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.

Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.

People like Nate Bell and Fred Love put the ball in play in 2015. Several made it happen this year, but none more than the governor. He got notable supporting oratory from people like his nephew, Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette), and the usually silent Rep. George McGill (D-Fort Smith), who enthralled the House with the perspective of a black man who'd felt the lash of discrimination as a student at the University of Arkansas.

Much mutual backslapping followed the victory Friday and the governor waited until Tuesday for a full-dress ceremonial bill signing.

Now let me rain on the parade of people singing "We Shall Overcome" and comfort Lee's defenders. For one thing, it was embarrassing that it was so hard to pass a bill taking us off the front seat of the Dixie Flyer bus with Alabama and Mississippi. Nobody celebrated Lee on the third Monday in January, so nothing practical was at issue. But a noisy number deeply resented granting higher status to a black man than to the Confederate general. Few of them knew the legislated day of honor grew directly from Southern resistance to desegregation in the 1940s.

But here's the thing. The Confederacy's legacy lives on. The Arkansas Republican revolution was achieved in the political equivalent of a nanosecond thanks to disdain, if not hatred, for a black man, Barack Obama. The continuing resistance to his legitimacy gave Donald Trump an Arkansas landslide.

The South hasn't quit fighting.

The Arkansas legislature wants to change the state's Constitution to make it harder to vote. King died fighting for the franchise.

Where King wanted to eliminate segregation root and branch, the legislature is working root and branch to aid resegregation — through school transfers that disregard racial motive, charter schools and public payment of tax money to private schools, including some whose existence is owed to segregation.

At his death, King was planning a poor people's march. Today, the Arkansas legislature and its Republican representatives in Congress see poverty as a character flaw. Lawmakers believe — if they believe in public assistance at all — that the working poor must jump more hurdles to get health care or food for their children (and many legislators want to dictate what food they may buy.)

A scholarship program created to send more people to college is funded by the hopelessly poor desperately chasing lottery longshots. Legislative requirements for the money now guarantee that it goes disproportionately to white people of comfortable economic means.

The Arkansas legislature also recalls sharecropper days with landlord-tenant law. Failure to pay rent remains a crime in Arkansas, no matter how uninhabitable the shelter a landlord provides.

It is also impossible to imagine that Martin Luther King would have supported discrimination against people on account of religion or sexual orientation. The Arkansas legislature is hard at work attempting to do just that, with better than a dozen bills aimed at denial of equal rights.

Minorities of various stripes, including philosophical, are also at the root of legislative extortion attempts at Arkansas Tech. These legislators want to put colleges in bondage to their narrow philosophy, academic freedom be damned

So whatever the end of the King-Lee holiday might do for Arkansas's image, it will have scant impact on daily life and ring hollow against dozens of votes with more tangible impact.

To borrow liberally from King's "dream" speech on the occasion of elevation of his holiday: I come to remind Arkansas of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of empty symbols or to take the tranquilizing drug of self-congratulation. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

I have a dream.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Martin Luther King Jr.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

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

  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • IBS, you're from Chicago, right? Hillary's from Chicago. Your monomania against Hillary is puzzling and…

    • on July 27, 2017
  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • When we had not one but TWO shit candidates running for president, is it really…

    • on July 27, 2017
  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • So Gene Lyons says all people who voted for Trump fall into just two categories…

    • on July 27, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation