A South Carolina state senator has proposed making mandatory a state holiday honoring Confederate war dead. Sen. Robert Ford, who is black, believes that such a holiday would help improve race relations by inspiring a fuller understanding of history. Here's what's going on:
Ford's bill won initial approval from a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. It would force county and municipal governments to follow the schedule of holidays used by the state, which gives workers 12 paid days off, including May 10th to honor Confederate war dead. Mississippi and Alabama also recognize Confederate Memorial Day.
Years ago, Ford said he pushed a bill to make both that day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day paid holidays. He considered it an effort to help people understand the history of both the civil rights movement and the Confederacy in a state where the Orders of Secession are engraved in marble in the statehouse lobby, portraits of Confederate generals look down on legislators in their chambers and the Confederate flag flies outside.
"Every municipality and every citizen of South Carolina should be, well, forced to respect these two days and learn what they can about those two particular parts of our history," Ford said Tuesday.
I understand Ford's point, but I also think that a Confederate day only matters if people are ready to engage in honest, informed, sometimes heart-pulling dialogue about everything, from secession and states' rights to the gangrene of slavery in our nation's past.
In a state steeped in a segregationist past, "there's no love in this state between black and white basically," he said. That's not apparent at the statehouse, where black and white legislators get along, "but if you go out there in real South Carolina, it's hatred, and I think we can bring our people together."
Lonnie Randolph, president of the state conference of NAACP branches, objected to that reasoning."Here Senator Ford is talking about the importance of race relations by forcing recognition of people who did everything they could to destroy another race -- particularly those that look like I do," Randolph said. "You can't make dishonor honorable. It's impossible."
Ron Dorgay, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member from Elgin, said race relations have moved far from hatred, but he hopes Ford's bill brings more understanding of the state's past."
Even in school systems, they don't teach the correct history," Dorgay said.
Once again, this debate looks like it may all come down to one color: green!
Large and small counties say they'll have put up more cash to cover holidays they don't now recognize, largely for law enforcement and emergency worker overtime, municipal and county association lobbyists said.
Ford says the cost is not the key issue here, and maybe he can convince his colleagues that he's right.
See the source article here: http://www.blackvoices.com/blogs/2009/02/06/black-senator-wants-proposes-confederate-holiday/
Posted by J. Stephen Conn at 6:44