Last year, Tommy Benton, a Republican lawmaker in Georgia and member of the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Ku Klux Klan “was not such a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”
Now he’s introducing a resolution to honor the Confederacy that doesn’t contain a single mention of slavery.
Georgia HR 644 would establish Confederate History Month in April, the month “the Confederate States of America began and ended a four-year struggle for states’ rights, individual freedom, and local governmental control, which they believed to be right and just.”
The resolution goes on to deem April 26 “Confederate Memorial Day,” a day when state residents can remember “more than 90,000 brave men and women who served the Confederate States of America.”
Benton said President Donald Trump’s campaign inspired his proposal. “We just elected a president that said he was tired of political correctness. And so that was the reason that we were looking to introduce the resolution,” Benton told WABE, a local NPR affiliate. “We think that our heritage is just as important as everybody else’s.”
Yet for decades, people who fought to preserve the Old South’s “traditions” and “heritage” during the Civil War have been glorified ― while the role that slavery, racism and white pride played in the creation of these traditions has often gone unacknowledged.
Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who massacred nine black parishioners in a historic black church in 2015, was pictured holding the Confederate flag in an online manifesto that outlined his hatred of black people and desire for a “real KKK.” He also voiced a desire to “save” the South.
Even Confederate leaders themselves said the Civil War was about slavery and maintaining a way of life in which black people remained subservient. The vice president of the Confederacy said Southern states were fighting to keep “the negro” in “his place.” Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, said slavery was the motivation for war in 1861. Secession statements from South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia echo these sentiments.
But Benton doesn’t think the Confederacy, and its symbols, have any link with current racism against black people.
“This idea of every time something bad happens and wanting to blame it on a flag, or the idea of slavery, it’s just not right,” Benton told WABE.
Read Benton’s resolution: