UT Austin Students Vote To Be ‘Emancipated’ From Jefferson Davis — His Statue And His Legacy (VIDEO)

Austin’s different. Visitors to the city would be excused for thinking they’re not in Texas anymore. After all, the Republican legislature, which has to meet in Austin, calls the city “The People’s Republic of Austin.” They think it’s an insult.

However, students at the University of Texas, Austin don’t see a problem with the place’s liberal reputation. On the contrary, they largely embrace it. So much so that the student government wants to break the hold of Texas’ Southern legacy on their school. The struggle has recently focused on a statue of Jefferson Davis which stands prominently overseeing campus.

In March, the student government adopted a resolution asking the university administration to remove the statue. One of the students who voted, Jamie Nalley, said:

“We thought, there are those old ties to slavery and some would find it offensive.”

The Texas NAACP certainly thought so. They supported the students’ efforts. The group’s president, Gary Bledsoe, expressed his opinion of the statue’s presence:

“I think it’s offensive that you exalt Jefferson Davis but you don’t exalt Abraham Lincoln.”

Now the students are waiting … and waiting … for the administration to act on the resolution. The process is too slow for at least one person, or maybe more than one. Graffiti has appeared on the statue that says:

Davis must fall. Emancipate UT.

The question of dumping Davis and several other statues celebrating the Confederacy has been raised in the past, but the administration has maneuvered around students by erecting more statues — of Martin Luther King and Barbara Jordan. Those moves have just raised other questions about how appropriate it is for these figures to stand in proximity to one another.

Of course, there’s vociferous opposition to what the students want to do, like from the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A spokesman for that group called the proposed removal a “massive insult” to the Southern heritage. Such a stance totally ignores other parts of Southern heritage — like the huge role the black population played in the region’s history and the fact that Abraham Lincoln undeniably shaped the Texas of today by keeping it in the Union.

An editorial in The Dallas Morning News took more of a ‘now lookie, here, lil’ darlin’s’ approach to the problem of the student leaders’ assertiveness. It said:

“We should be wary of trying to whitewash history by removing or erasing historical and artistic markers.”

Which in itself is an interesting choice of words. What is the commemoration of the ‘heroes’ of the Confederacy but an attempt to ‘whitewash’ history? The article went on with a ‘now y’all be reasonable’ approach that dug up a proposal from 10 years ago that never went anywhere:

“A better idea, and one that might actually have a deeper impact, would be for UT to return to a report drafted by historians a decade ago at the direction of former UT president Larry Faulkner. The report called for plaques to be placed at the Confederate sculptures to add historical context and meaning.”

Plaques? Like anyone in the South could avoid knowing who Jefferson Davis is. Deeper impact? Of plaques?

What about the impact of students saying they don’t want the racism of the past to represent who they are in the present? What about the impact of standing up for the integrity of everyone, in all their diversity, within the student population?

Rohit Mandalapu, student body vice president, summed up their perspective well:

“A statue in its intrinsic nature is meant to commemorate a historical figure and represent the ideals and values that the person stood for. [Davis] fought vociferously for maintaining the system of slavery, and we don’t think that it should be part of the campus climate.”

Bingo! At a time of increased racial tensions throughout the country — including on college campuses — this is hardly the time to cling to symbols that glorify a racist past. The debate about those symbols is good. Action to remove them would be better.

Watch coverage of the controversy here:

Feature photo, Screenshot from YouTube video