July 27, 2005

Confederates target of ethnic cleansing

The plight of the Confederates continues. From the Tennessean:
Group to fight effort to rename three 'Confederate' parks

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plans to donate at least $10,000 to be used in efforts to fight a proposal to change the names of three "Confederate" parks in downtown Memphis.

Nearly 1,000 SCV members approved the "emergency donation" at the group's annual convention, which concluded Saturday in Nashville, according to a statement released by the SCV.

The $10,000 represents the "first installment of cash" and will be used for "any and all purposes including litigation," the statement says.

"This outrageous affront to our Southern heritage will be met with every financial and legal means available to the Sons of
Confederate Veterans," said SCV Commander in Chief Denne Sweeney.

"The park renamings and monument removals are tantamount to an ethnic cleansing."

At issue are the names of Confederate, Jefferson Davis and Forrest parks.
This exact kind of battle gets played out every year or so in Tennessee, it seems. A three-year legal struggle over Confederate Memorial Hall at Vanderbilt University ended this month, with Vanderbilt losing to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and being forced to keep the pediment inscription of the dorm name. The moral justification?
"It's a victory for the entire South," [Deanna] Bryant, [president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy's Tennessee division,] who lives in Franklin, said of the decision to keep the inscription on the building. "Regardless, the War Between the States happened. Just because somebody doesn't like something, you can't erase it from the history books."

We're talking about erasing it from a building in which students live, not the proverbial history books, where slavery in fact continues to be a well-documented phenomenon. We've all seen this simplistic line of argument at Dartmouth before, regarding College symbols pertaining to Native Americans. Defenders of the Dartmouth Indian and Confederate Memorial Hall (the two symbols being quite different in their historical context but perhaps equally offensive to many in their function) invoke the sanctity of History when what's at stake is not history but the highly visible symbols in some public domain where people live and interact. It's a distinction that seems to evade many self-styled defenders of tradition. Preserve the pediment, but move it to a museum. Drop the Indian, but let its record persist elsewhere.


Confederate Memorial Hall

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