Bas­trop County has no plans to re­move Con­fed­er­ate me­mo­rial

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Andy Sevilla asevilla@ac­n­news­pa­ Con­tact Andy Sevilla at 512-321-2557. Twit­ter: @MrAndySevilla

While many cities across the coun­try be­gan re­mov­ing Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments from pub­lic spa­ces in 2015 after a white su­prem­a­cist gunned down nine church­go­ers in South Carolina, res­i­dents in Bas­trop County re­mained largely quiet about a mon­u­ment hon­or­ing lo­cal Con­fed­er­ate War vet­er­ans on the court­house grounds.

In the days after a white su­prem­a­cist rally protest­ing the re­moval of a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment in Char­lottesville Va., turned deadly Aug. 12, Bas­trop County Judge Paul Pape said there haven’t been any calls to have the county’s mon­u­ment re­moved.

“After the sense­less killing of nine black parish­ioners in a church in Charleston, S.C., we con­vened an ad­vi­sory group of com­mu­nity lead­ers from through­out the county to dis­cuss the Civil War me­mo­rial mon­u­ment on the court­house lawn,” Pape said. “Since 2015, I have re­ceived many calls, emails and letters about the mon­u­ment. About 90 per­cent ad­vo­cate pre­serv­ing the me­mo­rial as it is.”

Some res­i­dents have sug­gested erect­ing new mon­u­ments and mark­ers cel­e­brat­ing civil rights and the progress the coun­try has made to­ward equal­ity, Pape said. A few want the mon­u­ment re­moved.

“To me, this mon­u­ment re­flects the sen­ti­ments of the com­mu­nity and com­mu­nity lead­ers when it was erected in 1910 — 45 years after the end of the Civil War,” Pape said. “We can­not know ex­actly their think­ing or mo­ti­va­tion.”

Bernie Jack­son, a church pas­tor and com­mu­nity ac­tivist who par­tic­i­pated in the ad­vi­sory group tasked with dis­cussing the fu­ture of the lo­cal Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment, said the mon­u­ments are a part of his­tory and are im­por­tant to the peo­ple who had them erected. How­ever, she said, those mon­u­ments rep­re­sent a part of his­tory that is hurt­ful to another group of peo­ple.

“I pray we do not al­low the sta­tus of these mon­u­ments to be­come a dis­trac­tion that causes more di­vi­sive­ness and keep us from work­ing on the very real is­sues in our coun­try re­gard­ing race, big­otry or prej­u­dice,” she said.

Jack­son said the dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing the obelisk on the court­house lawn should in­clude rec­og­niz­ing that the mon­u­ment car­ries a dif­fer­ent mean­ing for dif­fer­ent peo­ple, as well as ac­knowl­edg­ing the his­tory the mon­u­ment represents.

“His­tory has happened. We can­not erase it by pulling down mon­u­ments,” she said. “We should learn from his­tory and find out why we are so fear­ful of one another; why we feel oth­ers are in­fe­rior and should not have rights; why we are, after all that we have been through due to slav­ery in this coun­try, able to feel good about our­selves only when we have some­one to look down on.”

Pape agreed with Jack­son and said it’s im­por­tant to pre­serve his­tory and re­mem­ber the lessons of past in­jus­tices.

“If the mon­u­ment on our court­house lawn re­minds us of the wrongs of slav­ery and causes us to treat all mankind as equals both un­der the law and in so­cial stand­ing, then it has re­deem­ing value,” he said.

But in some cities, such as Austin, whose res­i­dents and some lead­ers have called for the re­moval of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments and mark­ers, they rep­re­sent an ugly past that glo­ri­fied slav­ery and in­equal­ity.

“There’s so much we should be cel­e­brat­ing, we don’t need to cel­e­brate a past that has racist or seg­re­ga­tion­ist his­to­ries,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said last week on CNN. “We’re re­spon­si­ble now for mov­ing past that.”

The Bas­trop County mon­u­ment was erected by the lo­cal United Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy chap­ter in 1910 as a way to re­mem­ber county res­i­dents who fought for the Con­fed­er­acy. Many vet­er­ans were be­gin­ning to die around that time, for­mer Bas­trop Mayor Ken Kes­selus, who has writ­ten three books on the county’s his­tory and whose mother was a found­ing mem­ber of the lo­cal Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy chap­ter, has said.

“Re­mov­ing this stone mon­u­ment will not re­move what­ever ha­tred, prej­u­dice or mal­ice there is in our hu­man hearts,” Pape said. “That is the prob­lem, and deal­ing with it there, in our hearts, is the only so­lu­tion. Un­til we as a so­ci­ety, from top to bottom, believe that ‘all men are cre­ated equal’ and treat each other so, these Civil War icons will be a source of con­ster­na­tion. Only when we have re­moved ha­tred, prej­u­dice and mal­ice from our hearts will these mon­u­ments be non-of­fen­sive to all.”


A mon­u­ment hon­or­ing lo­cal Con­fed­er­ate War vet­er­ans sits on the Bas­trop County Court­house grounds. Bas­trop County Judge Paul Pape said there haven’t been any calls to have it re­moved.

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