UPDATE Monday AM: Sen. Janet Howell informs me, “I did walk off the floor to protest the speech. I did the same thing last year. Senator Locke and Senator Boysko joined me.”
Here in Virginia, this past Friday was something called “Lee-Jackson Day,” which of course Virginia shouldn’t be celebrating EVER, let alone in the year 2019. But, sad to say, Virginia still DOES officially “celebrate” these two men who took up arms against the United States of America for the cause of an economic and political system based on the enslavement of black people. To make matters worse, on Friday we had a (white) conservative Republican, Richard Stuart, stand up an extol Robert E. Lee as “a great Virginian and a great American, and NOT because it has anything to do with slavery.” Of course, that latter clause is a complete lie, and the former clause is highly debatable. But be that as it may for the moment, because the focus of this blog post is what Democrats should have done about this, and what they should do going forward.
So yesterday, I got a call from a Fairfax County Democrat who was, let’s just say, not pleased at the responses by Senators Barker, Ebbin and Surovell when Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax walked off the dais in protest on Friday. See the video, below, for a citizen asking them at a town hall meeting yesterday, “why didn’t you stand with the Lieutenant Governor, and if given the opportunity again would you choose to?” The responses were, in short:
- Sen. George Barker: “Actually, what [LG Fairfax] did yesterday was he stepped down from the dais…came down into the chamber and sat [where] we were all sitting…so it wasn’t as if he was in some different place than we were…and we’re supportive of him doing that, so I don’t think there’s anything further we needed to do to be supportive of him.”
- Sen. Adam Ebbin: “I was off the floor…in the back to make a phone call to my aide…a few members of the Black Caucus I saw back there heard what was going on, maybe didn’t return…[LG Fairfax] chose not to preside, and in terms of us all kind of stepping away, there were members of the Black Caucus who sat at their desks silently; so we get these motions made all the time, in this case of what I consider not someone to pay the greatest tribute to…I walked off the floor when Harry Byrd…was being paid a tribute to….but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on down there, if every time we were outraged we started a big protest we’d be protesting a lot…The bottom line is a big thing was not made of it, this is common that there are motions to adjourn in people’s memory, and people are generally respectful, whether they’re a controversial or not.”
- Sen. Scott Surovell: “I don’t believe all the black caucus members left the chamber, like two out of three stayed in their chairs…I’m a twelfth-generation Virginian; I had one grandmother who thought Harry Byrd walked on water, I had another grandmother who thought he was the devil incarnate. We have a long, complicated history in this state. Harry Byrd did a lot of great things for this state, and he also is the founder of Massive Resistance, he was a total racist…I think we reconcile by about them, by talking to each other, by trying to understand each other…Every time they say something offends us, we can’t get up and leave the room and just walk out…”
My view is that Virginia should absolutely not be celebrating “Lee-Jackson Day,” nor should we be in any way “honoring” people who took up arms against the United States of America, let alone in the service of an immoral, evil economic system based on slavery. Having said that, I’m not sure that walking out of the Senate is the appropriate course of action to take, simply because a right-wing Republican stands up and spews his noxious views. However, I *do* think that Democrats should be more outspoken and show more overt solidarity, perhaps by having a bunch of them stand up, one after the other, and explain why this “holiday” needs to be abolished, why it’s totally wrong to honor “Lee-Jackson Day,” and why they stand in solidarity with not just Justin Fairfax, but with every African American in Virginia and beyond. What do you think?
P.S. It should go without saying that, of course, Republicans shouldn’t put up with this Confederacy crap either, but I’ve completely given up on them, as they’ve basically devolved into a white identitarian party at this point.