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…

  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018
  • A new statue to represent Arkansas in D.C.

    Like all states, Arkansas has two statues selected by the legislature to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Rose, a successful and innovative lawyer, and James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator, have represented Arkansas in National Statuary Hall for approximately 100 years.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Demand more

    I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?
    • Oct 25, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Support ANNN

    In the past year alone, our small organization has made an impact with major stories on political corruption, health care, juvenile justice and more.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Slow the school waiver train

    The State Board of Education's controversial plan to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act in the Little Rock School District (and now others under state takeover) has received a lot of attention in recent weeks. But few people are aware of a broader threat to educational standards, accountability and transparency for every public school in the state: waivers under Act 1240 of 2015.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Race, history, taxes

    Racial prejudice and discrimination have long driven Arkansas politics and public policy. Arkansas's tax policies have especially perpetuated the harm of past racism and done little to reduce the systemic barriers faced by people of color today.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Of Freud and foolishness

    I’ve been suspicious of psychologists bearing theories ever since my graduate school "Eureka!" about Freud and Dostoyevsky.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Of Freud and foolishness

    • Perhaps, dss, the relevant data is found in the types of jobs held by men…

    • on January 16, 2019
  • Re: Of Freud and foolishness

    • Wondering what my name would be if not for Jonathan Swift. Probably Pamela.

    • on January 15, 2019
  • Re: Of Freud and foolishness

    • i would not necessarily regard this correlation as evidence of 'toxic' effects, but some years…

    • on January 15, 2019
 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation