News Editors Say Most Small-Town Texans Want Confederate Symbols To Stay

In communities outside Texas’ major metropolitan areas, many locals see Confederate monuments as symbols of heritage and sacrifice, not of racial hatred.

By Jill Ament and Rhonda FanningAugust 21, 2017 11:59 am,

In the wake of Charlottesville, Confederate monuments are coming down in public places across the country. Overnight, the University of Texas at Austin quietly dismantled four Confederate statues from the campus’ South Mall. But they’re not going down everywhere.

Newspaper editors and reporters whose readership extends far outside the liberal bubble of Austin, describe how the debate over Confederate monuments is playing out in their communities.

Lauren Gustus, executive editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

On surveying Confederate veterans monuments in the Fort Worth area:

“We sent a reporter out to all sorts of small towns and communities outside of Forth Worth proper to try to determine what was going on there. …What we found was a significant difference of attitudes with regards to monuments that are on display.”

A Comanche, Texas local weighs in on the debate over Confederate monuments:

“Ray Williams, he’s got a boot shop…he said, ‘I’m from the South and I’m proud to be from the South,’ he said. ‘The big cities, they’re trying to make it about something else.’”

On the idea that the monuments are about heritage:

“The sentiment that we heard was that, This is our history and we’re not racist. We don’t hate people of color, and these monuments are to the citizens of the community here who serve[d] in the war.”

On the difference between rural and urban attitudes:

“In Forth Worth, there is a movement afoot to change the name of Jefferson Davis Park. In the communities that we visited…there were no organized movements to take down any of the memorials.”

Allison Pollan, editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph

On the social media campaign to change the name of a local high school:

“Robert E. Lee High School, it has been named that since 1958 when it opened and there was a group that within the past week or so has started asking for the name to be changed. …I believe there’s more than 9,000 signatures in support of keeping the name.”

Jimmy Isaac, reporter with the Longview News-Journal

On locals not really grasping the impact of Confederate monuments on black Americans:

“I gather that members of the black community here have, for a long time, felt as though they have not necessarily had as strong a voice…because of that, I don’t know if those who are in the majority here really grasp…how big of an issue it is for a lot of the residents.”

On experiencing racism in Longview firsthand:

“I as a black man can’t make another person truly understand what it was like the first time I went into Dillard’s and noticed that I was not being followed by security.”

On being able to look past Confederate symbols:

“I do not see them coming down anytime soon…it doesn’t bother me but I come from a place where I experienced prejudice as a young, homosexual man versus the racial issues first…that has helped me in my perspective.”

Chris Cobler, editor of the Victoria Advocate

On keeping the 1912 Confederate Soldiers’ statue in Victoria’s town square:

“The chairman of the black chamber said he felt the statue or any kind of Confederate symbols should be removed, but the president of the local Daughters of the Confederacy said it’s a sign of history not of hatred. And we did an informal, unscientific poll and by and large, very overwhelmingly, people said they thought the statue should stay.”

Written by Caroline Covington.