Illustration for article titled What Better Way to Celebrate the Last Day of Black History Month Than...a Conference Honoring the Confederacy?
Photo: Win McNamee (Getty Images)

On the last day of Black History Month, America sent to me... a white nationalist event honoring the Confederacy. (You should have been singing this in the tune of “12 Days of Christmas” in case that wasn’t clear.)

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Huffington Post reported that a North Carolina branch of the Hilton Hotel franchise will be hosting an annual event put on by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group devoted to celebrating and honoring the Confederate States of America.

The Stephen D. Lee Conference, named for a Confederate general, will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton, Raleigh-Durham Airport/Brier Creek despite protests and civil rights advocacy groups urging Hilton Hotel to have the event canceled.

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According to the Post, last month senior campaign director for racial justice organization Color of Change, Brandi Collins-Dexter, wrote a letter to the hotel asking that it “not enable hate by rejecting [the Sons of Confederate Veterans’] presence at your hotel.”

“They, much like neo-Nazis, recognize Confederate iconography as a shorthand expression of white supremacy and the deadly ways it intersects with this country’s toxic legacies of racism,” Collins-Dexter wrote.

“Allowing this hate-filled organization space at your hotel validates its existence and intentions,” Collins-Dexter continued. “Furthermore, with known connections to the KKK, having this convening at Brier Creek Embassy Suites jeopardizes the safety and comfort of other hotel guests.”

Media culture and economic justice director at Color of Change, Amanda Jackson, also had choice words for the conference and the hotel that is hosting it.

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“The fact that a hate group can book a block of rooms and have a field conference and no one blinks an eye about it — like, I think we have to question why that is,” Jackson, who lives in Raleigh, told Huffington Post adding that Hilton is normalizing an “entity that is very much hell-bent on eroding the presence of Black people” and is aiding a white supremacist group in their “attempt to render Black people invisible.”

“It is not lost on me that the Sons of Confederate Veterans had to have their conference during Black History Month,” Jackson said. “And I think that that is the underlying notion that needs to be confronted around why this is so wrong.”

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“Why aren’t we having the conversation of what it means to be on the side of the Confederacy?”

Jackson also said she will be participating in a protest outside the hotel during the conference organized in part by a group called Smash Raleigh Racism.

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The group posted a statement about the protest to their Facebook page on Tuesday.

“The Sons of Confederate Veterans are a white supremacist organization with ties to the KKK, League of the South, and other violent, fascist groups. The state of North Carolina refuses to remove the racist confederate monuments from the state capitol building, making racist groups like the SCV feel welcome in North Carolina.”

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“Our community, which opposes racism and bigotry, wishes to make sure they know that their hate is not welcome in our state,” the group said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans denies that they are white supremacists (because, of course they do) but even the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t seem to be too sure what else to call them.

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From Huffington Post:

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has long argued that it is neither a hate group nor a white supremacist organization, claiming that it simply aims to honor its members’ heritage and ancestry.

Although the Southern Poverty Law Center does not list the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a hate group, the SPLC does describe it as having “strong neo-Confederate principles” that it uses to valorize the “darker parts of our history.”

The SPLC also contends that “their effort to gloss over the legacy of slavery in the South ... strengthens the appeal of Lost Cause mythology,” which in turn encourages the ongoing existence of violent hate groups.

Sons of Confederate Veterans has a long and well-established history of associating directly with white supremacist organizations. At a gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 2017, Sons of Confederate Veterans members rallied alongside members of the Ku Klux Klan.

One of the featured speakers at this weekend’s conference will be Marshall DeRosa, a professor with ties to the League of the South, another white supremacist organization.

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Color of Change said that the letter Collins-Dexter sent never received any response from the hotel, but a spokesperson for the hotel’s franchisor, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., told the Post in a statement, “Although our hotels are places that welcome all, we do not adopt or endorse the views of the individuals or groups that we serve. We reject discrimination and white supremacy in all its forms.” (Apparently, they meant “in all its forms... accept accommodated guests in our hotel — that form is totally fine.”)

“As Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Airport Brier Creek is an independently owned and operated hotel,” the statement continued, “we are reaching out to understand ownership’s position on this matter.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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