Southern white men love to memorialize other white men who fought for years to keep African Americans enslaved. It’s the Southern-white-man thing to do to champion the losers of the Confederacy.
So, on Monday, when Virginia state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta) stood up to lionize the birthday of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson during a state Senate meeting, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s first black statewide elected official since Douglas Wilder in 1989, quietly walked off the dais, as he didn’t want to be disrespectful, but as a black man in the South, he didn’t want to hear that shit.
Fairfax bounced, and Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford), the Senate pro tempore, moved into Fairfax’s place.
The Washington Post reports that Fairfax’s exit was so smooth, many senators didn’t even realize it was a protest move.
“There are people in Virginia history that I think it’s appropriate to memorialize and remember that way, and others that I would have a difference of opinion on,” he told reporters afterward, the Post reports. “I just wanted to, in a very respectful but very definite way, make it clear that these were not adjournment motions that I felt comfortable presiding over, and I was not going to do it.”
The Post notes that Fairfax knew beforehand that the move to commemorate both Jackson and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was coming, and since he presides over the Senate, he informed some members of his plans to hand over the gavel so as not to be a part of the shenanigans commemorating those who wanted to enslave his ancestors.
Here’s how the Post described Fairfax’s decision to protest as well as Virginia’s history of honoring those who fought to continue slavery:
Fairfax described his protest as a “personal decision” based, in part, on his family history. Tucked in his jacket pocket when he was sworn in as lieutenant governor on Jan. 13 was the manumission document that freed his enslaved ancestors in 1798.
Honoring Confederate figures and other prominent Virginians is nothing unusual for either Republicans or Democrats in the former capital of the Confederacy. Comedian Stephen Colbert lampooned the Virginia Senate in 2013 for adjourning its Martin Luther King Jr. Day session in honor of Jackson—on a motion from a Democrat, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath. Such tributes have become more politically charged amid the push to remove monuments and rename schools and roads honoring Confederate leaders.
But why would Fairfax’s presence as only the second black man to be elected statewide stop tradition or the history of honoring white men who fought for the losing side?
“I’ve done this numerous times before, and I expect that someone on this floor has repeated this tradition here in the General Assembly every year—perhaps 155 times over 155 years since Jackson was killed in battle and lay in state here behind me down the hall in this Capitol,” Hanger, whose great-great-grandfather served with Jackson in the Stonewall Brigade, said during his speech.
“And yet today is different,” he said. “We all know it and we struggle to hide our discomfort—discomfort with people who have given disgusting voice and vile action to the racism and bigotry that seemingly respectable people have managed to hide in their hearts.
“Jackson was not a perfect man,” Hanger said, the Post reports. “As a devout Christian, he had conflicting views on slavery. But there’s no questioning the fact that in his short life, he became one of the most respected military leaders the modern world has known.”
I love how Hanger notes that Stonewall Jackson was a Christian with “conflicting views on slavery,” or how about he was a slave owner who never freed any of the slaves he owned, and when he went to fight for the side of America that wanted to expand slavery, his wife rented his slaves to neighbors because she found them difficult to “control” without her husband’s help.
Yeah, I’m with Fairfax, and fuck this tribute and the retelling of history that completely tries to whitewash the racist past of horrible men.
Read more at the Washington Post.