Since the deadly white supremacist rally last August in Charlottesville, many cities in many Southern states have had to reckon with the ways they still celebrate the Confederacy. Dozens of memorials have been removed in over 25 cities since then, and even more are set to be taken down. While there are still some who claim that wiping away tributes to Confereate leaders is erasing history, many more lawmakers and citizens have shown they no longer want to glorify a political party that advocated for the slavery of Black Americans.
That’s why it’s a bit disconcerting, to say the least, that two states not only have entire days marked on their official calendar to celebrate Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, it is a commemoration that is tacked onto Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Today, Alabama and Mississippi are celebrating the birthdays of both men while the rest of the country is simply celebrating King. In case it wasn’t clear why these two make for an abhorrent combination: King fought and died fighting against structural racism, poverty, and hate; Lee led a war to keep Black people as property and is responsible for 375,000 dead Americans.
While other states, like Arkansas, have done away with the Lee part of this joint holiday in recent years, these two highly conservative states remain a stronghold. At least in Mississippi, one representative is trying to separate the two men into two different days, and another representative wants to move Lee to a different holiday. Alabama, however, has no plans to give King his own day, according to AL.com. In fact, Alabama also still celebrates Confederate Memorial Day in April and the birthday of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in June with official statewide holidays.
Many across America are, if not highly displease by this, very surprised this is even a thing.
Robert E Lee Day ~ Alabama & Mississippi honor Martin Luther King Jr by celebrating the birth of a confederate general who fought to keep slavery alive, even though it's not his actual birthday – and pretending the civil rights movement never happened.#MLKDay
— Alt Fed Employee (@Alt_FedEmployee) January 15, 2018
Alabama has been commemorating Lee’s birthday since the 1800s, while King was added to the holiday in 1983. There have been many online petitions to remove Lee from the holiday in recent years, but none have been successful. Maybe in 2018, as it becomes increasingly hard to ignore our racist past and present, it’s time to start a widespread campaign to eradicate the glorification of white supremacy once and for all.