The JHU/SCV controversy could be worse

By Gregory Kane

Examiner columnist | 11/22/08

A reminder to those folks in the Sons of Confederate Veterans: You were lucky you got to use Shriver Hall on the Johns Hopkins University campus in 2008 and 2007.

Administrators at JHU nixed the idea of SCV members using Shriver Hall as a gathering spot to enjoy refreshments and use restroom facilities on the third weekend in January of 2009, as the SCV has done for the last 20 years. According to news reports, some SCV members claim they are the victims of “political correctness run amok.”

To which I would reply: And your point would be what, exactly?

Really, they should have seen this coming. In 2006, some goofy JHU student who fancied himself some kind of wit posted that now infamous invitation to a fraternity Halloween party on Facebook that some black students found racist and insulting. Add to that an effigy of a hanging pirate at one frat house that some black students quite wrongly interpreted as a celebration of lynching and you had one heck of a brouhaha for JHU administrators.

The university was quite unfairly pegged as, at best, “insensitive” to black students and, at worst, racist. But in January of 2007 and 2008 SCV members held their march and paid tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson by laying wreaths at their monuments in Wyman Park.

That was then. The third weekend of January 2009 will soon be the now. Shortly after that weekend America will inaugurate its first black president. And the SCV guys are surprised by the action of Hopkins administrators?

I’ve talked with some SCV guys before. They’re, as a group, a pretty bright bunch. We disagree on several points, of course. It rankles me how they try to portray the antebellum South as some sort of “friend of the Negro” society, when they know it was anything but.

Their contention that the North was every bit as racist is dead on target, however. Perusing my book “Black Saga,” a year-by-year account of major historical events that had an impact on blacks in America, I noticed that all the anti-black riots before the Civil War occurred in Northern cities. None happened in the South.

The SCV guys are adamant in their position that states’ rights — or, more precisely, the abuse of same — was the cause of the Civil War. I agree with them, only I’m quick to add that the main states’ right the seceding Confederates went to war to defend was the right of a state to have chattel slavery within its borders. The SCV guys will NEVER add that point.

Were I a JHU administrator, I’d have let the SCV guys do exactly what they’ve done for the past 20 years. But I’m not, so all I can do is say “thank heavens” that this is only a minor controversy. Baltimore could be going through what Jacksonville, Fla., has been going through for the past couple of years.

There’s a high school in Jacksonville named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. (Forrest was also a Confederate general, considered by some historians to be better than Lee or Jackson.) Now I’m the kind of guy who would think that naming a school for the KKK’s first grand wizard would be kind of a deal killer, but I’m funny that way.

I first learned of this in early 2007, when Tonyaa Weathersbee, a colleague of mine who writes a column for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, mentioned that there was a Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in that city.

We were sitting in Havana, Cuba’s airport about to fly back to the United States. Once Weathersbee said Jacksonville had a Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, I fell into peals of hysterical laughter. The Cubans must have wondered what kind of crazy Yanqui was in their country, and were no doubt glad I was going home.

But, as I explained to Weathersbee, my laughter wasn’t because Jacksonville had named a high school for the KKK’s first grand wizard. What I was thinking at the time was “Hey, better Jacksonville than Baltimore.”
   
If we must have a controversy involving Confederate generals, I’d prefer the one that just made the news here.

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