History, yes; Honor, no
NWA has long acquiesced to the presence of un-contextualized confederate states of america (csa) honorifics. The csa, based solely on the desire to retain and expand slavery throughout the growing US, and individuals who fought for its existence should not be honored.
History and honor are two different concepts: History is a factual matter, honor is a choice. History establishes the csa was based on racial exploitation solely created to protect and spread slavery, as slavery made the Southern economy the engine propelling the US to become a world economic power (and major polluter).
Some claim a confederate flag does not evoke racism. It may not be a symbol of hate to them, but any attempt to redefine what a confederate flag and csa represent is sophistry. For example, Arkansas seceded because the newly formed Republican party and non-slave states were hostile “to the institution of African slavery;” denied “the same protection to their slave property… afforded to other property;” “obstructed the faithful execution of the fugitive slave laws.”
Other csa states also made their reason for secession clear: slavery, whether refusal to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, expand slavery into new states, and/or redress continued violations of the slaveholding provisions in the Constitution.
NWA, which seemed to be a bubble of enlightenment, abides visible girders of systemic racism. For example, Fort Smith is home to a monument at the Sebastian County Courthouse “to commemorate local men who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War” and where a 1st national csa flag is flown. It is unacceptable that the monument and flag – the embodiment of injustice – are standing next to the symbol of justice.
In Fayetteville, the Southern Memorial Association created a confederate cemetery because women “must see that those who gave their lives for the greatest cause the world has ever known must live forever in the hearts of the Southern people.”
Bentonville seemed to have solved the issue regarding the csa monument in its town square, but cowardly kicked the can down the road because the town agreed to move the monument to a place of glory in a private park.
NWA cities and counties must correct these underpinnings of systemic racism. For example: Bring accurate historical context to the csa which means removing any honorific status; pass laws that csa symbols are hate speech; issue a statement/proclamation refuting csa creation myth(s) – that anything but slavery was the driving force that created the csa – and confirm that the csa existed only to ensure the perpetuation of slavery.
Honoring the csa is a foundational part of today’s systemic racism. 250 years of slavery was the major reason this country, and mainly Whites, prospered; and Whites still reap financial benefits through systemic racism. Any honor bestowed on the csa should be removed as confirmation our intention to turn our full focus to becoming a unified and equitable society, that being crucial to successfully addressing challenges of the present.
Mike Karcis, Fayetteville
[Eds. Note: Capitalization unchanged at writer’s request]