Sunday, September 23, 2018
Politics

Carlton: One more chance to do the right thing and move Confederate monument

"But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race."

— the words used more than a century ago in Tampa to dedicate a Confederate monument.

Today, the Hillsborough County Commission gets a second chance to decide if this particularly ugly sentiment lingers on outside a bustling public building in downtown Tampa.

The board votes again today on whether to remove a statue honoring the Confederacy — and a time of oppression and slavery — from outside a county courthouse and possibly to a more appropriate place.

Today, they get the chance to fix this.

And I don't want to speak too soon, but it looks like they might just make it happen.

You would not have seen this one coming. Last month, the commission heard citizens who are descendents of slaves, including their own colleague on the dais Les Miller, talk of the painful and outdated symbol of the Old South that stands near the courthouse entrance.

They also heard from others who said moving it anywhere — even to a place where Confederate soldiers are already honored — would be wrong, that we can't erase history.

Which is true enough, though there is always the option of learning from it.

Then four of seven commissioners — Stacy White, Victor Crist, Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman — voted not to move it an inch. Although there was talk of painting a pretty picture nearby.

But so much has happened since that 4-3 vote: peaceful protests, attention from the likes of CNN, the Tampa mayor's big thanks-but-no-thanks to relocating it to a city cemetery near black churches.

Others also declined — either not wanting to inherit this mess or unwilling to give up that prime in-your-face public space.

Then came a twist commissioners could not ignore: The Tampa Bay Rays — the very baseball team no-voting Hagan dreams of landing in Tampa — was asked by the Tampa Bay Times for its opinion. The considered response: The decision belongs to elected officials, the Rays said, but since we asked, the team supports removing it from the courthouse.

Next up, the Bucs: "We do not believe it is a true and accurate depiction of the values that make Tampa such a great, progressive city," they said of the statue, which features a soldier headed to war, another returning and a marble structure between them bearing the rebel flag.

No-voting Crist appeared to have changed his tune, saying the statue will likely be moved, except oops, he's out of town and not available to be a possible yes vote today. And at the last minute came a change of heart from Murman — plus talk of new possibilities of places to put the monument and a plan for how to pay for its removal.

No, I don't get to make up these plot twists. Even the encouraging ones.

Will it be the voices of constituents that finally get commissioners to move this divisive symbol? Or the reminder of the racist spirit in which the monument was dedicated all those years ago? The embarrassing national headlines? The cold realities of regional boosterism and big-time sports?

The true spirit of compromise, even?

Does it matter?

No matter what, if it happens, it could be history we can be proud of.

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