Texas House Digs In on Confederate Monuments

The Robert E. Lee statue was removed from a Dallas park in September 2017.EXPAND
The Robert E. Lee statue was removed from a Dallas park in September 2017.
Brian Maschino
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Last week, the Texas Senate threw the state's Confederate fetishists a bone. Spurred in part by Dallas' votes to get rid of the Robert E. Lee statue from the park that used to be named after the treasonous general and remove the towering Confederate war memorial from Pioneer Park near City Hall, state senators passed a bill that would've made it a little harder for municipalities to get rid of their memorials to sedition and the Lost Cause. Now, the Texas House is pushing to give the Stars and Bars dead-enders a way better deal.

Had it been in effect when Dallas voted to dump its statues, the Senate version of the All Monuments Matter bill wouldn't have saved Lee or the Memorial. In both cases, more than two thirds of the City Council voted to remove the statue — 13-1 for Lee and 11-4 for the homage to the Confederate war dead.

The House version, substituted for the Senate's version by a House committee Tuesday, would be much better for historical monuments and much worse for Texas' collective memory when it comes to the Civil War.

If the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee gets its way, the state, all cities in Texas and all counties in Texas would be banned from removing any monument or memorial that honors “an event or person of historic significance,” if that monument or memorial was put in place more than 40 years ago.

Younger monuments and memorials would be a bit more vulnerable. Changing anything on one between 20 and 40 years old would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate for tributes on state property, and local election to get rid of or modify any monument or memorial on municipal grounds.

State Rep. James White told the Austin American-Statesman that it's his goal to bring order to the ongoing debate over public monuments in Texas.

“I believe all Texans take their history very seriously,” White said. “Just because you have the majority doesn’t mean you always should do things the way you want to do it. It doesn’t mean the minority voices don’t have at least some ability to weigh in on the issue in a meaningful way."

During debate of the watered-down version of the bill in the Senate, Houston's Borris Miles and Dallas' Royce West, the upper chamber's only black members, blasted the bill for promoting racism and hate.

“The bill that you’re carrying on the Senate floor today is disgraceful,” Miles said. “I ask that you consider some of the pain and heartache that we have to go through — myself and some of the brothers and sisters on this floor of color — and what we’ve had to go through as it relates to our Texas history.”

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