Update 12:02 am: The statue of Robert E. Lee will be moved and stored. More than 50 people signed up to speak at this morning’s City Council meeting concerning the removal of the statue, and several more (including Pierce Allman) were not able to make it to the mic. Per a motion filed by Mayor Pro Tem Carraway, the statue is to be removed and stored in a safe place (using city funds, then to seek private funding to reimburse the city for the removal and storage) while the task force seeks input, discussion and a final decision. Ricky Callahan made a motion for a citizen’s vote: thinks moving the statue might hurt the upcoming bond vote. Says 15 member council should not have power to remove statues, needs to be taken to the voters. Callahan also suggested re-naming Lee Park to Freedom Park. His motion only got 3 votes – 4 for the record, but Kevin Felder did not intend to push the button. Felder wants Lee Park to go back to the original name Oak Lawn Park. Jennifer Gates reminded us of the history framing the erection of the statue and the anti-black deed restrictions (still) found in many Dallas neighborhoods and was the only member who asked the City Manager for the cost of removal ($450,000). Her comments were touching as she relayed a story her father, Roger Staubach, had told about encountering racism while in the Navy. But Philip Kingston really hit the nail on the head: “These monuments represent a false telling of history… there is no erasing of history today.” Let the discussion begin.
The Dallas City council is holding a special vote this morning on the Robert E. Lee statue on Turtle Creek Blvd. There are speakers scheduled, including a lovely woman I met last evening at the statue at Robert E. Lee Park over on Turtle Creek. The meeting is said to be a formality, really, because the bulk of the Council has already decided to tear the statue down after a proclamation made weeks ago by Philip Kingston. You can read all about it here from Jim Schutze.
Sources tell me the voting will begin at 9:45 am as cranes move in at 9:46. Dallas police have been ordered not to tell anyone this, nor to publish any posts on FaceBook, stemming off any violence (which was why I decided not to post this last night.) DPD have blocked off the streets surrounding the building. Are the cranes far behind?
Meantime, the Dallas print media is looking like night and day on this issue.
Over at the Dallas Morning News, Tristan Hallman says a new group that includes Pierce Allman of Allie Beth Allman & Associates, has formed and is saying, “whoah Nellie” to yanking down that statue. His story ran 12 hours ago.
The new group, Dallas Citizens for Unity and Reconciliation, hopes the City Council will hold off removal while a task force analyzes and discusses what do do about the statue and city’s other Confederate symbols. Presumably they are speaking at Council today.
“It looked like it was just moving too fast,” said Hank Tatum, one of the group’s leaders, referring to the removal fever.
Other members of the new group besides Tatum, who is a former Dallas Morning News editorial page editor, include former Dallas Morning News columnist William Murchison, Pierce Allman, husband of his company’s namesake and a well-deserving Father of the Year, real estate executive Kirby White, and Jane Manning, co-founder of the Lee Park and the Arlington Hall Conservancy.
The group, that Tatum says has approximately 100 people on board and includes a mysterious “city leader”, hired Mayes Media Group (a political consulting company) and another phone survey company to survey Dallas voters to ask their position on the statue.
The poll reached 503 registered Dallas voters. It commenced last Thursday and ended Sunday, over the Labor Day weekend. The caller asked:
“A group of Dallas leaders are proposing an alternative plan that would keep the General Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park. Under their plan, the city would leave the Lee statue in the park with the addition of a plaque explaining the historical perspective of the statue. Private funds would then pay for a statue or series of statues in a nearby park that celebrate achievements of the African-American community.”
Today Dallas comes to a wonderful and terrible crossroad. All indications are that the City Council will vote, probably 14-1, to pull down the city’s many Confederate monuments to white racial privilege. If we have only one council member still in favor of white racial privilege, that will be just about 100 percent for us.
This wasn’t easy. It was sort of a mess, in fact. It’s a shame the vote today won’t be unanimous. But when you get a peek at how it finally happened, you will understand why we had better take what we can get.
Then he gives background that mostly happened while we were on summer vacation: early August, Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston introduced a “resolution calling for an immediate moral condemnation of the Confederate monuments on city property and their eventual removal. Four other council members, including one African-American member, Casey Thomas, signed his resolution.”
Then Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings “countered with a proposal that did not include a moral statement condemning the monuments. Rawlings’ proposal would have created a commission to consider the question of removal. It prescribed a list of hoops his commission would have to jump through first before making a recommendation on removal.”
City council members appointed reps to the commission, 2,500 people gathered at City Hall Plaza in a mostly peaceful demonstration endorsing Kingston’s position that included an alliance of community activists, clergy and artists. TV was there spotlighting signs like “1860 called, they want their ignorance back.”
The movement moved forward to this morning.
No matter what your opinion of the statue and whether it should stay or go — I’ve been back and forth and back again on this, more so on “go” after reading the hard-to-read transcription last evening behind Lee that is etched into the granite bench: “No calumy can ever darken his fame for history has lighted up his image with her everlasting lamp.”
a misrepresentation intended to harm another’s reputation denounced his opponent for his defamatory insinuations and calumny
2: the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another’s reputation He was the target of calumny for his unpopular beliefs.
No matter what your opinion, what happens this morning at City Hall and then over on Turtle Creek Blvd. is a key indicator to the real estate future of Dallas. How so? Because of those robo calls and the people who want the statue to remain as is. It is clear to me that the Old Guard wants Lee to stay in place, not because they are mean-hearted or because they support racism. Hardly, they are among the kindest, most generous people in Dallas.
This is simply change. And if you have lived in Dallas all your life, you probably don’t like it. It is, after all, a beautiful statue.
But the newcomers coming to this city at a rate of 400 per day, the folks who are buying our houses and renting our apartments, don’t really care about what has been here forever. That’s one reason why, I think, Dallas is not as preservation-minded as many older east coast cities. I mean, we just tore down an historic hotel on Ross Avenue that was a mess but told the story of racial segregation in this city in the ’50’s and ’60’s. It’s a story half of us don’t know, because we were somewhere else or not even born.
Here is what one of the local activists, who has been working to get rid of the Lee statue for years, told Schutze:
“First,” he said, “I want to disclaim any moral superiority to people who are not on the front lines about this. Most whites have been totally misled in this part of the country about what the Civil War was about and what kind of a man Robert E. Lee may or may not have been, the whole thing.
“If we are suffering from delusions, they were probably brought about by a fairly dishonest rendering of the conflict in our schools and in civic life generally. It’s not saying nanna-nanna because we’re holier than you because we want the statues down. I’m not feeling that.
“For me, I went to [Dallas’] Thomas Jefferson High School. I graduated in 1970, and the athletic mascot of the school was a rebel soldier, a Confederate soldier. The school song was ‘Dixie,’ and the school football battle flag was the stars and bars.”
Well, we were the Indians in Illinois, not much better. And I grew up in a subdivision called Blackhawk Manor, where all streets were named after Indian tribes. No one meant to hurt anyone’s feelings; some creative copywriter just thought this was marketing genius. And hey, the homes sold.
But once I understood the background story of how the Lee statue got here, there was no marketing magic. It was created as a way to rub the Confederacy in the faces of blacks and the Union, and glorify the losers.
That’s why I finally settled for removal. Or the addition of an historical statue right next to Lee that tells the whole story, the truth.
Should the city pay for it? Heck no. The State Fair of Texas or the Dallas Citizen’s Council should step up and offer to foot the bill, maybe split it, along with any other group truly committed to moving Dallas forward: $450,000.