It’s perfectly reasonable for Americans to take down Confederate flags flapping aside Old Glory on public buildings. The flag has become a symbol of racism that still endures in parts of America more than 150 years after the Civil War ended.
It’s also reasonable for Long Beach and San Diego school officials to think about renaming their Robert E. Lee schools. And they are, as part of a healthy national soul-searching after the racially motivated mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church last month. Like the rebel flag, the commander of the Confederate forces is inextricably linked to the perpetuation of slavery at the heart of the Civil War, despite his other accomplishments and virtues.
Confederate flags don’t have a place of honor on California’s buildings. In fact, state lawmakers last year banned the display or sale of the battle flags or their representations in state buildings. So legislation by state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and supported by Sen. Bill Huff (R-San Dimas) prohibiting them is symbolic and inoffensive. However, the second part of AB 539 is troubling for its reach. It would prohibit the use of names associated with the Confederacy, not just Gen. Lee’s.
Under that broad definition, the name of writer Mark Twain, who served in the Confederate army, could be scrubbed from local schools. Maybe even Glassell Park would be affected. The Los Angeles neighborhood was named for Andrew Glassell, the first president of the L.A. County Bar Assn. and a developer. A native Virginian and member of a plantation-owning family, his sympathies were with the South during the war.
This state’s early history includes many Southerners and Confederate veterans. Why should we erase their names from public recognition if they are known for other things? Glazer and Huff may have their hearts in the right place, but not every societal problem needs legislation to solve it.
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