Texas Republicans are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing quotes from the iconic civil rights leader. But it’s hard not to wonder if some of our conservative leaders are merely posturing, especially considering they’ve failed to do away with the ugly holiday that falls a day before MLK Day, “Confederate Heroes Day.”
Texas is one of about a dozen states that continues to memorialize the Confederacy with some form of holiday. Texas employees can even have the option to receive the day off for the holiday, which falls on Jan. 19, Robert E. Lee’s birthday.
Lee, the commander of the Confederate forces, was a slaveowner who made his views on the cruel institution clear in 1856 letter where he argued that “the blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa” and that the “painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race.”
To have a day in Texas dedicated to celebrating Lee’s birthday is bad enough, but to have it fall within the same weekend as the day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. is a particularly grave injustice.
In recent years, attempts have been made to remove or modify the racist holiday. In 2015 and 2017, state legislators unsuccessfully tried to change the holiday to “Civil War Remembrance Day.” This past session, Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston) introduced a bill to remove “Confederate Heroes Day” from the official list of state holidays, but the proposal died in committee.
The desire to keep the holiday out of “tradition” echoes the debate seen with other ancient artifacts memorializing the Confederacy, namely monuments. Last year, the Republican-led Texas Senate passed a bill that would have made it harder for city councils and county officials to remove Confederate monuments.
The proposal never became law, but it showed that many Texas conservatives still appear to believe racist monuments are worth preserving in the public square.
Photo: Mike Brown/Getty Images