The President of the United States put himself back into the debate over Confederate monuments Thursday. In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend, he tweeted in defense of the monuments, saying the country is “being ripped apart” with their removal.

Texas is home to 178 Confederate monuments: the second-largest number of Confederate symbols after Virginia, according to a Politico analysis.

And State Rep. Eric Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, is requesting the removal of one of them: a plaque near his office inside the Capitol.

Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News says the Children of the Confederacy Creed was installed in the late 1950s — nearly a half-century later than other Confederate monuments at the Capitol.

“It very blatantly denies that the Civil War was fought over slavery, and denies that secession was rebellion,” McGaughy says.

There’s little debate among historians about the central cause of the Civil War. Even a prominent Civil-War-era Confederate Postmaster General said in a speech recorded by the Austin American-Statesman in 1897 that the war was about slavery.

McGaughy says Johnson wants the plaque removed immediately, but also wants to begin a larger discussion about Confederate monuments and symbols at the Capitol. He sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Joe Struas and the preservation board saying as much.

“There’s about a dozen of them. And so he’s asking the State Preservation Board, which keeps up the monuments, to kind of take an inventory of them and set a date for discussion,”McGaughy says.

She says Abbott condemned racist and hate-filled violence but not the monuments, in a statement to the Dallas Morning News:

We must remember that our history isn’t perfect. If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

McGauhgy says this was the clearest position Abbott has taken on the issue.

“This isn’t the first time a black lawmaker in Texas has asked for this discussion, but this is definitely the first time we’ve heard any definite stance on whether those monuments should go away,” she says.

Several Democratic lawmakers made a request similar to Johnson’s in 2015. McGaughy says Speaker Straus replied to them, saying he was in favor of forming a committee to discuss the monuments, but that the committee never met.

McGaughy says it’s unclear what happens next. She says Abbott didn’t say whether he would support a committee, and Lt. Gov Patrick has said in the past that the issue is being dealt with internally, as opposed to openly, among legislators.

“I think it’s kind of up to the lawmakers to see how much pressure they want to put on their elected leaders to have this discussion,” she says.

Two other Democrats are joining the request — Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas — and are expected to write similar letters to state leadership, McGaughy says.

“This is probably going to be ongoing and we’re not expecting it to die down any time soon, but you know, previous attempts to even have the conversation about these monuments haven’t really gone anywhere,” she says.

 

Written by Caroline Covington.

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