Is it political correctness or something else?

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

In the wake of Mayor Bobby’s Ralph’s refusal to issue the proclamation for Confederate History Month last week, I had a lengthy conversation about it with a member of the local Tom Smith Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans.

He was deeply hurt by it, as one might expect, and I was moved by his passionate defense of the proclamation.

Of course, slavery in the Confederacy was never mentioned, but he did speak at some length about people like Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.


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“These were real heroes,” he said. “They stood for faith, honor and duty. Those are the things we need to be teaching our young people today. These basketball stars are not heroes.”

He said one of his most prized possessions is his 10th grade history book from Suffolk High School, which he described in some detail. It had chapter headings like “Defending Virginia,” and had illustrations of Confederate soldiers carrying their flag on horseback.

I imagine this book was in use in the 1950s or 1960s.

The conversation made me recall a book I read six or seven years ago by James Loewen, a sociologist, called “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” I went to the Morgan Library and got another copy of it on tape for a refresher.

Loewen details a lot of what my friend was speaking of last week, but contrary to what many people like him and those who have written letters to the editor in the past week believe, the fact that history books dropped references such as the ones in his Suffolk High book is not the result of liberal political correctness, but educational bureaucracy and textbook publishers’ pursuit of profits. I wrote about it in today’s print edition.

I received word that the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Suffolk and some other groups were scheduled to have a meeting tonight and issue a press release Tuesday. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect it has to do with their participation in Civil War Weekend, set for April 1 and 2 here in the city.

While it would be a shame if they were not to participate, I don’t think anyone should be surprised by it.

As the gentleman I talked with said, “that piece of paper means a lot to us.” He said they feel exploited by the city, that nobody has any trouble with trying to lure tourist dollars based upon their ancestors, but when it comes to something meaningful, they feel betrayed. He also noted all the work they’ve done at no charge for materials and labor on maintaining head stones and other architecture at city-owned Cedar Hill Cemetery, which is also used to attract people.

He makes good points and I hope both sides are able to come to some accommodation on this matter for the good of everyone.