A state Republican in Georgia made an astonishingly racist set of remarks, in his defense of the South’s Confederate and racist history.
State Rep. Tommy Benton has flat-out denied that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery, compared the Confederate leaders to the Founding Fathers, expressed his profound displeasure with what he called “cultural cleansing” of Southern history. He insisted that the KKK was not a racist organization – but rather “a vigilante thing to help keep law and order,” claiming that made a lot of people “straighten up.”
Where do we even begin here? Let’s start with the assertion that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. We can refer to the Cornerstone Speech, which was given by Vice President Alexander Stephens of the Confederacy, a few weeks before the Confederacy started the Civil War.
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
He suggested that the Civil War was wrong because the North didn’t address the loss of what was approximately two billion dollars worth of “property” that belonged to the South. Yes, he meant that the slaves were the property of the South.
Benton also is critical of African-Americans for not denouncing their own African ancestors for selling slaves.
Then comes the idea of “cultural cleansing.” The offensiveness of this kind of assertion is profound. Cultural cleansing is another term for genocide, the latter of which didn’t exist as a word until the Nazi’s tried to cleanse Europe of people they considered to be “undesirables.” No, the removal of a Confederate flag is not equal to the gassing of the Jews in Nazi Germany.
Benton expanded on the cleansing remarks by saying that the removal of things like the Confederate flag or renaming of things like streets or buildings which were named after Confederate legacy is directly equivalent to ISIS destroying cultural sites in the Middle East.
“That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments,” he said. “I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don’t matter anymore and that’s a bunch of bunk.”
No. Nobody in the South is ripping up roads or smashing buildings after executing the local population in order to “cleanse” Confederate history. We are simply asking that it not continue to be glorified as some kind of noble cause.
Our founding fathers would have hated the guts of Republicans like this guy. The Founders embraced things like science. Being smart, to them, was an advantage – not a liability. The KKK was also not ever in its history a “justice movement” meant to keep the peace. Its purpose through history was to restore white supremacy and terrorize former slaves, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and anybody promoting the civil rights of the groups that the Klan hated.
Remember: Republicans keep saying that their party is the party of Civil Rights because Abraham Lincoln was one of them. I sure am glad they cleared that up. Otherwise, people like Tommy Benton would make me think the Republican party is full of racists.
Watch local news coverage of an interview featuring Benton below:
featured image via video screen capture