Filed today in the legislature was a bill to end the dual recognition of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. as a state holiday.
On its surface, it seems to have something for everyone:
* The third Monday in January would be a state holiday in observance of King’s birthday.
* The second Saturday in October would be a “state memorial day” for Robert E. Lee, commemorated by a gubernatorial proclamation, not a holiday.
* Existing law on teaching African-American history would be amended.
Emphasis shall be placed on the historic work of American civil rights leaders, including without limitation Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his pursuit of justice in civil society.
The requirement under this subsection shall be taught as appropriate in the classroom and shall specifically be taught in conjunction with corresponding state and federal holidays.
Language, not to be codified, covers both sides:
It is the intent of the General Assembly by the enactment of this act to maintain an awareness of and celebrate the unique cultural heritage of Arkansas by educating Arkansas youth regarding:
(1) Historical events of state and national significance;
(2) The contributions made to the history of this state by military and civilian leaders; and
(3) The reasons for honoring such historical events and figures through the observance of days designated for their commemoration.
Well. Looks good to me. But I don’t have a vote. The sponsors are Sen. David Wallace of Leachville and Rep. Grant Hodges of Rogers, both Republican, both white.
No Democrats? No blacks? I expect the Black Caucus will be heard from. I expect the Confederate Caucus will be heard from, too, at the de-emphasis of Lee.
I suspect this is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s bill. He’s vowed to end the shame of dual recognition in Arkansas, one of three slave states to put a slavery defender on a par with the civil rights champion. He has the high ground now. I’m seeking comment from the Black Legislative Caucus.