The effort to put distance between government and symbols of the South’s Confederate past continues to gain momentum from public schools to state houses. The South Carolina Legislature moved one step closer to removing the Confederate flag from its capital this week with a resounding 36-3 vote in the Senate – the issue now goes to a more divided House.
There’s a similar debate underway this week in Texas: Yesterday, the University of Texas held the first of two public forums to address the future of the statue of Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders on campus. Five Democratic lawmakers have also signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking for action on some other Confederate monuments. One of those lawmakers, Senator Royce West of Dallas, says Texas is overdue for a discussion about the various Confederate symbols at the state capitol.
“The reality is that we need to make sure we have citizen input all across the spectrum, just like the debate going on in South Carolina” he says.
Sen. West hopes the state will be able to get a bipartisan effort to take the actions needed to take down some of the statues that may be offensive to people, particularly in light of the recent shooting in Charleston. He, like many other citizens who are rethinking these symbols, believes they do not belong in public places, but rather, in a museum that would reflect that history.
“You need to make certain the story that’s being portrayed is in fact an accurate story, as opposed to something that’s being whitewashed,” Sen. West says.
While he applauds Republican leadership across the state and country that’s behind taking down the Confederate flag, he’s not disillusioned of the reason those statues and symbols are in the state capitol to begin with: Texas had Confederate sympathizers after the Civil War.
“The fact is that it’s going to take a Republican leadership in order to make this a reality,” Sen. West says.