Here’s the roll call on the vote this morning defeating Rep. Charles Blake’s cost-free but dramatically symbolic bill to say in law that one of the stars on the Arkansas flag (a flag designed in the white supremacy days of the early 20th century to resemble the Confederate flag) no longer represented the Confederacy. The committee, in short, refused to strip an emblem of the defense of slavery from the state flag.
It was almost a party-line vote (11 needed for a “do pass”) — Republicans defending the preservation of the Confederacy symbolism and Democrats in favor of removing the symbol in favor of a statement of recognition of Indian heritage.
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There was one notable exception, Republican Rep. Jimmy Gazaway of Paragould, who’s distinguishing himself with votes this session that
What will remain a historical fact is that the state of Arkansas and this country allowed the enslavement of an entire race of people, much to our shame and much to our discredit. This bill is about being sensitive and considerate to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in this state who are the descendants of people who were once slaves — who were not even considered human by our government. We owe it to the people of our state to recognize that and to be sensitive and to be considerate of that fact.
Many others spoke well — Reps. Nicole Clowney, Megan Godfrey
The usual group of Lost Causers appeared to reprise the arguments they made against the bill that ended state holiday recognition of the Confederacy’s leading military defender of slavery, Robert E. Lee. Legislators suggested erroneously that the bill rewrote history. It doesn’t. As Gazaway noted, the tragic and embarrassing history can hardly be rewritten or forgotten. But we can send a symbol for others living and still to come about where Arkansas stands. Votes like these say a whole lot more to the outside world about Arkansas as a place to live than an enormous tax cut for the 11,000 richest people in Arkansas.
There may be a shred of shame in Republican ranks. Note how many had someplace else to be when the roll was called. It will be called up yonder.