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

From the ArkTimes store

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…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty Dogs & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Can't afford to gut ACA

    The Affordable Care Act was passed into law with the promise that it would make insurance affordable. Because of bipartisan leadership in Arkansas, we continue to strive to achieve that goal. While rhetoric abounds, it is important to understand the Arkansas experience.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Tipping point

    I was extremely cautious before engaging in the educational debate about the State Board of Education's decision to take over the Little Rock School District.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Left behind

    Arkansas is getting a lot of attention for our very low unemployment rate. If you look only at that number (3.4 percent), you would think workers here were doing quite well — better than surrounding states and even the nation as a whole. But that seemingly simple rate can hide some huge gaps in prosperity.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

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 Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017
 

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