Many hear “Florida” and think “paradise.” Beaches, palm trees, Disney World and … Confederate generals? It’s easy to forget that less than a century ago, in our very own Sunshine State, segregation and discrimination raged and burned like fire. Being one of the founding members of the Confederacy, Florida’s present is ingrained with the remnants the past.
Select remnants are the subject of recent controversy in Hollywood, Florida. In a city meeting that lasted three hours, the Hollywood City Commission voted 5-2 on a measure that will allow the city to vote on whether to change street names without polling residents. Because of the issue at hand, even though the commission’s measure might cause concerns, it is a step in the right direction.
“It is time to change the names and the time is now,” Commissioner Debra Case said during the meeting.
With the surge of white supremacist attitudes at the forefront of our country, it is more important than ever to take a stand and make changes.
White nationalists, or the “alt-right movement,” have always been present in our country. The KKK was founded in 1865 and has been active ever since. White nationalists convened Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The rally erupted into violence, causing the death of a 32-year-old woman. It was an unsettling display of hate – a mentality that many Americans – more than 100 years after the Civil War – still possess.
Even so, I refuse to believe that America is going backwards. When I think of America, I think of the land of opportunity that opened its arms to me and my family so that we could have a better life. I think of the land that protects rights and doesn’t harbor hate. Therefore, it is necessary that the names of the streets be changed.
Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is often called the father of the KKK, were all Confederate generals. They are symbols of slavery, hate and a time in our history of which we should be utterly ashamed. They should no longer be honored with statues or streets named after them, as they represent ideologies that America should no longer praise.
So, when the city officials reconvene to make their final decision Aug. 30, I can only hope they will think of certain things. I hope they will think about our horrid past and how it has affected many generations. I hope they think of the city’s residents and what impressions the names of the streets will have on their children. I hope they think of how far we’ve come and what the future holds for us. If they think of all of this, I know they will make the right decision.
Kay-Ann Henry is a freshman majoring in journalism.
Featured photo courtesy Flickr user h willome.