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Southern Poverty Law Center

The status of Confederate monument removal

We still have a long way to go.

Texas has removed the most Confederate symbols and statues in the country since 2015, according to a new Southern Poverty Law Center study. But the trend does not extend to the state Capitol, where lawmakers have been reluctant to take down monuments and plaques.

Texas cities removed 31 symbols, which include statues and renaming of schools and streets, according to the report. Austin led the way, with the removal of 10 symbols, the majority of them on the UT campus. Houston renamed seven schools and one street.

Cities in Texas and across the country have removed hundreds of symbols following the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston in 2015, which prompted lawmakers in South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse.

“As a consequence of the national reflection that began in Charleston, the myths and revisionist history surrounding the Confederacy may be losing their grip in the South,” the SPLC argues in its report. “Yet, for the most part, the symbols remain.”

Houston ISD spent $1.2 million to change the names of eight schools that once honored figures of the Confederacy. Reagan High became Heights High; Davis High was changed to Northside High; Lee High took the name of longtime educator Margaret Long Wisdom; Johnston Middle was changed to Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School; Jackson Middle became the Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence; Dowling Middle was renamed after Audrey Lawson; and Lanier Middle changed its first name to honor former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier instead of Confederate poet Sidney Lanier.

Dowling Street, named after Houston businessman Dick Dowling who served as a lieutenant in the Confederacy, was renamed Emancipation Avenue by the City of Houston in January 2017.

Two controversial monuments remain in city parks.

The Spirit of the Confederacy statue has stood in Downtown’s Sam Houston Park for 110 years. A monument commemorating Dick Dowling was erected in Market Square Park in 1905 before moving to its current location in Herman Park.

You can read the SPLC report here. There’s a sidebar story in there about the history and origin of Stone Mountain in Georgia, which, yeah. Go read that if you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about. I don’t know if they counted this sort of thing, but in addition to the schools that got renamed, HISD also recently got rid of a Confederate-themed school mascot. So yes, progress.

One place where a lot more progress could and should be made in short order is in the state Capitol. State Rep. Eric Johnson, who has been leading the charge to get a particular historically false plaque removed, just submitted a brief to the AG’s office regarding the authority of the State Preservation Board, which includes Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, to remove that “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque. He subsequently got support from outgoing Speaker Joe Straus.

The Republican speaker of the Texas House says a Confederate plaque hanging in the state Capitol can — and should — be removed immediately.

In a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton, Speaker Joe Straus called the plaque offensive and misleading. And he agreed with Rep. Eric Johnson, the Dallas Democrat pushing for its removal, that the Texas Preservation Board has the power to remove the plaque immediately.

“Every year, thousands of visitors to the Capitol are exposed to this inaccurate plaque,” the San Antonio Republican’s staff wrote on the Speaker’s behalf. “Maintaining it in its present location is a disservice to them and to history. The plaque should either be removed or relocated to a place where appropriate historical context can be provided.”

[…]

Johnson said he was disappointed he hasn’t heard from Abbott in the seven months since the two men sat down to discuss the plaque. He wants the governor to call a meeting of the board and vote on his request to remove this plaque. If the agency fails to act quickly on his request, he wrote, a court of law could compel it to do so.

“The Curator similarly cannot let a request languish,” Johnson wrote. “Should the Curator fail to act on a change request within a reasonable period of time, mandamus can issue to require the Curator to act.”

One may be disappointed in Abbott, but one shouldn’t be surprised. Straus has previously backed removing the monument, so if Abbott and Patrick would get off their butts and take action, we could get this done tomorrow. What are you waiting for, guys?

Hotze gets official hater status

Congratulations, I guess.

After more than 30 years of anti-gay activism, Steven Hotze picked up the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Wednesday.

The Alabama civil rights group labeled Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT) an anti-LGBT hate group in its annual report on extremist organizations.

Hotze, an influential and deep-pocketed Republican donor from Houston, was among the top funders of the successful campaign to repeal the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in November.

“What we look at in the anti-LGBT groups is primarily the use of lies, of falsehoods, that have the effect of demonizing gay people,” SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok said. “So, it’s not merely that they opposed the HERO ordinance; it’s the way in which they did it — the description of gay people as pedophiles and so on.”

[…]

CRT becomes the fourth anti-LGBT hate group in Texas, and the third added to SPLC’s list, in two years.

“These groups are on the defensive against huge social changes that they cannot stop,” Potok said. “The religious right has suffered very serious losses, losses from which it will not recover, and an enormous amount of rage has resulted.”

Click over if you want to see or be reminded of a couple of the more charming things Hotze said during the HERO fight. Mark Potok is right that the likes of Hotze have lost a lot of ground in recent years, but as HERO showed they can still win some battles, and they’re surely not going to go away without a nasty fight. The Press has more.

Chick-fil-A

So there’s been protests and counter-protests and editorials and clever menu ideas, and that’s only in the past week. I don’t think the Chick-fil-A saga is going to come to a resolution any time soon, so let’s remember what it’s all about in the first place. It isn’t that Dan Cathy opposes marriage equality or that he publicly said so. This isn’t news, it’s been well known for a long time. What was news, and what got people up in arms, was that Chick-fil-A was financially supporting the hate group the Family Research Council. Fred puts it better than I can:

The Family Research Council hates LGBT people. It hates them and it works hard to hurt them at every turn. The Family Research Council is a far, far bigger threat to the LGBT community than Chick-fil-A will ever be.

FRC’s crimes against its neighbors include telling hateful lies about LGBT people every day, 24/7, in every media outlet and every media platform it can find. It tells those lies to promote hate — to stir up anti-gay sentiment and spread it as widely as possible so that they can solicit funds from anti-gay donors and so that they can use those funds, in turn, to influence legislation. The legislation FRC supports denies civil rights and legal protections to LGBT people. It hurts them. It changes the law so that the law will hurt them. That makes the Family Research Council a much worse enemy of LGBT people than Chick-fil-A. So let’s put the focus on them. Let’s go upstream and use this boycott opportunity to make the corner boys roll over on the bosses.

More here. This isn’t about what Dan Cathy said or believes, it’s about what his company does. That’s something we can and should work towards changing. Towards that end, Business Week has some advice for Cathy and his company as well. As someone who used to patronize Chick-fil-A and whose kids love going there for ice cream and the play area, I hope they figure it out before they do more damage to their brand.