Talk of removing Confederate monuments starts a war of words in Dallas

Dallas Morning News – by James Raglan

Less than five miles from Dallas City Hall — in a South Dallas community that’s home to mostly black and Latino residents — rests a three-quarter-acre tract of land where at least 55 Confederate soldiers are buried.

Not many people know it’s there.

Located at the corner of Electra and Reed streets, right off Malcolm X. Boulevard, the cemetery’s been there for more than a century.

This also happens to be one spot Dallas officials are looking at as a potential location for the Robert E. Lee statue now in Oak Lawn’s Lee Park and the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park Cemetery downtown.

Nothing has been decided yet. It’s just an idea. And I’ll come back to it after I explain why we need to talk about where Confederate bodies are buried.

Blame Mayor Mike Rawlings if you want.

The public conversation he wanted to start about what Dallas should do with the two Confederate statues in city parks didn’t take long to go south. It ripped the bandage off an old wound about the institution of slavery and the intentions of those who want to honor those who fought on the losing side of the Civil War.

It may get worse before it gets better.

And it has to get better: After I wrote about the mayor’s request to get a new group focused on racial reconciliation in Dallas to put this on its agenda, a rhetorical civil war broke out.

Both sides grabbed their modern-day bayonets — social media — and dug in.

One camp, led by a growing cadre of social justice activists, wants to see all symbols of the Confederacy wiped away or hauled off to a museum.

The other camp, including organized groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, doesn’t want the city to touch any of the tributes. They say the old monuments and school names should be left in place because they reflect America’s — and Dallas’ — history.

Jefferson Davis is part of the Confederate Memorial at Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas. (Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)
Jefferson Davis is part of the Confederate Memorial at Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas.
(Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)

Now you understand why the city of New Orleans, which recently uprooted all four of its Confederate statues after the City Council there declared them a public nuisance, nearly exploded in violence over this.

We don’t want that hostility in Dallas. That’s why the mayor’s strategy makes sense: He has city officials looking to see how other cities, states and schools have responded to Confederate symbols. And he’s calling for a public discussion before any formal decision is made.

But folks on both sides, including many I respect, don’t want a protracted fight.

The Rev. Michael Waters, a senior pastor of Joy Tabernacle AME Church and one of the leaders of Faith Forward Dallas, said it’s clear what the city should do.

“The fact that bringing down monuments to treason and slavery must be debated is itself the height of white supremacy,” Waters wrote on my Facebook page. “What is there to debate?”

He’s joined by historian Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001.

“It’s time to exorcise the ghosts of the Confederacy that haunt Dallas,” Phillips wrote in an article for The Dallas Morning News.

Phillips is gathering signatures — at least 32 so far — from area scholars and religious leaders on an “Open Letter” he plans to give to the mayor, City Council and Dallas school district officials, calling for the removal of all Confederate symbols.

“Monuments in public spaces represent what the city, county, state or nation seeks to represent as its core beliefs,” the letter reads. “Monuments work to shape identity.”

He said every Confederate monument “standing today loudly proclaims that … the enduring values of this place, this city, and this people is white supremacy.”

But John McCammon, 1st Lt. Commander of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, fired back.

“That is a false narrative,” McCammon told WFAA-TV. “It is in no way celebrating slavery.”

McCammon is against the push to remove monuments or erase Confederate names from schools. “History should not be erased, good or bad,” he said.

That brings us back to the Confederate Cemetery in Dallas. As city cultural and parks officials began looking at how other cities and states have been dealing with Confederate monuments, they saw the cemetery in South Dallas as a natural fit.

<p></p><p>Fifty-five &nbsp;Confederate soldiers are buried in a&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;">cemetery at 4225 Electra St. in Dallas.</span></p><p></p>(Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer)

Fifty-five  Confederate soldiers are buried in a cemetery at 4225 Electra St. in Dallas.

(Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer)

Dallas County once owned the land as part of a six-acre tract southeast of the historic Oakland Cemetery; but in 1904, the county set aside three-fourths of an acre for the burial of ex-Confederate soldiers. It deeded the land to the city in 1936, and 40 years later, the park department assumed maintenance responsibilities.

Moving the Confederate statues here seems like a reasonable option — again, if we can get to that point.

“It’s so early,” said Jennifer Scripps, director of the city’s office of cultural affairs and one of the staffers leading the research on this. “But many cities have done similar things.”

Makes sense to me. So does the public art staff’s recommendation that the Confederate artworks at Fair Park — the Confederate Medallion and The Confederacy statue — be left alone because they are part of  “the historical document of the history of Texas.”

No matter what the city decides, there’s no way the opposing camps will ever agree.

The most we can hope for is that they remain civil.

10 thoughts on “Talk of removing Confederate monuments starts a war of words in Dallas

  1. This is nothing more than communism, and communists don’t give a sh*t what color you are or what religion you are. They gloss it over in the name of race.

    They are looking to see how other states and communities have dealt with the removal of conf. statues. Retards, how bout, we aren’t touching them and anyone that doesn’t like it better learn to deal with “hurt feelings.”

  2. These monuments are beautiful works of art. To displace or destroy them would amount to debauchery. Screw those idiotic morons that want them removed. The idiots that feel the monuments represent white supremacy should learn to live with the fact that most whites are superior. Perhaps a movement should demand that all buildings, streets, and highways named after Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or any other black, be removed.


    2. “Perhaps a movement should demand that all buildings, streets, and highways named after Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or any other black, be removed.”

      Where’s the petition, I’ll sign it, perhaps it’ll get the ball rolling to.

      1. Black Power Fist in Detroit

        Gotta come down

        They say it’s a Joe Lewis fist
        I call BS , it doesn’t matter my cry baby ass says take it down , it offends me

        See if they like that

  3. Perhaps the “state” should start teaching true history in the grade schools. The war was not about slavery, it was about northern aggression when the south would not bow down to the northern tariffs and started trading with France and Spain. It was about corporations forming in the early days and gaining power. The only time slavery was brought up was when Ms. Lincoln made an issue of it, and she was a space cadet. Start telling all the social liberals about history, if they will listen, which I doubt. If they don’t, I believe that blood shed will follow, according to the governments plan.

    1. They don’t want to teach them that , the truth

      Because the fact of the matter is the war of Nothern Aggression hasent ended or stopped ,at least in policy

      And if the kids figured it out they might learn something about their deceitful government

      Can’t have that now

  4. Michael Phillips calls himself a historian when he doesn’t even know the history of the civil war. How he passed grade school is beyond me.

    The guy calls himself a historian, yet he only wrote a book on social studies. Go figure.

    I wonder how much he got paid for his false degree that he probably bought online and to do this.

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