A determination of prejudice and bigotry can never be subject to a popular vote, as the entire history of the civil rights movement attests.
To argue that the name change of J.E.B. Stuart High School should be subject to a popular vote is flawed for just this reason. The same goes for the lamentable name associated with the Washington professional football team. It should be changed because it is wrong, not because some conjured majority thinks so or not.
Sadly, tyranny too often enjoys majority support, as long as it is deft enough to chose an isolated minority to persecute. As long as Jews were the target of Hitler’s tyranny, everyone else in Germany could feel free to support him, even though the same tyranny was also repressing their freedoms, most significantly the freedom of the press, of assembly, or of the right to oppose him.
Frankly, it is shameful in this day and age that anyone would actually step up to defend the name of a Confederate general at a local high school. His whole identity and purpose was tied up with the perpetuation of slavery. That’s what the Civil War was about.
There are those who contend that it was about “states rights” and not slavery, per se, but then, the “rights” they were fighting to defend for their “states” were the right to the practice of slavery. There can be no denying this.
Like in the 1950s, when descendants of the Old South, many of whom grew up in households that were still fuming about the loss of the Civil War, faced the demand made by the U.S. Supreme Court to integrate the schools, still today there is a strong current of racism in our culture.
It has fueled a lot of the irrational opposition to the first African-American president despite his very considerable contributions to the well-being of every American through his steady and mature leadership.
There is no doubt that the rise of Donald Trump to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee this summer is the consequence of a virulent racism that still inflames a lot in the country, especially among white males. It has been his unrepentant anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim diatribes that have sparked the grassroots of his support from day one.
So, the “push back” against the morally-driven movement to remove Confederate flags and other remnant symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy that arose following the wanton murders of nine by a single person in Charleston, South Carolina, last year is not surprising. Good old white boys appeasing and enabling good old white boys, and even if some are not of that ethnicity, the matter is one of right and wrong, not the whim of anyone’s personal opinion.
One hopes in promoting movements to advance our culture beyond the Confederacy to find encouragement in the notion that we are moving toward greater multicultural appreciation and respect. But there’s no guaranteeing that.