Guest writer, Marcos Protheroe, is a teacher and a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School. We appreciate his thoughtful and well researched article on the truth behind Confederate symbols.

*****

The fuss over Confederate symbols should have ended in 1995.

That year, drag queen RuPaul sported a full-length, sequined, rebel flag dress on movie screens across the country. She was playing Miss Rachel Tensions in the film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. It was a cameo part, but it should have ended all debate.

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The juxtaposition of black drag and the Confederacy should have rendered white liberals and black civil-rights hucksters speechless. Did their words go away? Was there nothing more to say?

Unfortunately, no, the culture war has raged on. Here in Jacksonville, Robert E. Lee High School’s name, along with eight other schools, are now on the chopping block. On June 1st, the Duval County School Board will vote on whether to change the names or not.

Opponents claim that our six Confederate namesakes are racist. They also maintain that Andrew Jackson and French colonist Jean Ribault marginalize indigenous people.

On the other hand, the proposed alternatives to our school names are oppressively dull: Riverside, Westside, Northside, Eastside, your mama’s side. Boring! Why in the world do agitators prefer to drag down the city with colorless, Soviet-style monikers? You’d think, in all their religious zeal, they’d come up with flashier alternatives.

The truth is history isn’t a parade of choir boys and vestal virgins. Historical figures aren’t perfect; they’re human. Martin Luther King was a womanizer and a plagiarizer. Abraham Lincoln was a white supremacist. Even Jesus Christ was strangely rude to his mother during the wedding at Cana.

So, can we continue to live with our imperfect heroes? Of course, we can. Keeping the names will save the School Board from an unfunded, two-million-dollar liability!

It will also reinforce Jacksonville’s Southern pride. General poverty looms large in the South’s history, but for four years, we had our own country, our own president, and our own congress. We even appointed the first Jewish Cabinet member in North America, Judah P. Benjamin. We didn’t have our own supreme court, since that idea wasn’t sufficiently Confederate –but we gave the Yankees a run for their money.

Didn’t the Confederacy fight for slavery? Of course, it did, but Lincoln made a deal with the Devil by tolerating slavery in the Border States, producing a glaring irony of the Civil War: There was slavery on both sides of the front.

Ultimately, suppressing Confederate history lets the North off the hook. After the war, the Yankees grew weary of Reconstruction. They just didn’t care anymore. So, they gladly lost the peace in the South, in favor of more western expansion and more industrialization in the North.

The identity-politics crowd loves to go after Confederate symbols, because they’re conspicuous and because for a long time, there hadn’t been any such thing as Reconstruction Park –until now. The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park opened in Beaufort, South Carolina in 2017.

Protesters should stage demonstrations there, since the Northern abandonment of Reconstruction was the real crime. It delayed civil rights for a hundred years!

In the end, instead of reimagining the police, we should reinterpret Southern symbols. We should have fun with them, make them our own. That brings people together.

Did you know there’s a gay rainbow version of the rebel flag?

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It has circulated on the Internet for a good 15 years.

There are even “black Confederates,” that is, blacks who wave the rebel flag and/or wear Confederate uniforms.

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Why don’t we paint Robert E. Lee’s picture with garish, Andy Warhol colors and sell it?

It never ceases to amaze me how minorities are exploring funny, creative ways to live with the past, which raises the question: What’s the endgame of our humorless protesters?

We know from history that appeasement of aggression never works. If we give in now, we may find ourselves in protracted battles over teaching Marxism and Critical Race Theory in our schools.

There’s an actual booklet for teachers called Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction. One would think such an objective and straightforward subject as math would have nothing to do with perceptions of racism, but if the school names come down, this is the nonsense we’ll probably have to deal with.

Instead of dividing people by obsessing over race, we should build bridges.

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In 1980, the decidedly New York disco group Chic sent a gift to the South in the form of the song “Rebels are We.” Here’s the catchy chorus:

We are the rebels, baby.

Rebels are we.

We want you free,

My baby and me.

Nevertheless,

Rebels. . .are we.

“We want you free,” is the perfect lyric for our times. Free us from these “woke” name changes. Free us from this anti-Southern purge. Free us from the United States of the Offended.

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Marcos Protheroe is a Spanish immersion teacher at Barnwell High School in Barnwell, South Carolina. His students have won awards from the National Spanish Exam, the National Digital Poster Contest, the Long Island Design-a-Card Contest, and the Augusta University Language Day Contest. In his spare time, he works as a freelance reporter for Eye on Jacksonville and The Resident Community News.
 
Protheroe grew up in Avondale and graduated from Robert E. Lee Senior High School and Florida Junior College at Jacksonville. At the University of Florida, he earned two bachelor degrees, one in Spanish and one in broadcast journalism. He also holds a master’s in Spanish from Texas A&M University and a doctorate in Spanish Studies from the University of Puerto Rico.

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