2019 may be a new year, but the Republican party remains the party of Confederate racist white supremacist traitors in states across the country.
House Speaker David Ralston Friday named as one of his committee chairs a state representative who opposed the erection of a statue to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the State Capitol and said the Ku Klux Klan made “people straighten up.”
Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, will chair the House Retirement Committee, which oversees the retirement funds for Georgia teachers and state employees.
“The speaker’s philosophy is that people deserve a second chance and that’s what he has given Chairman Benton,” said House spokesman Kaleb McMichen. Benton did not respond to requests for comment.
The announcement of Benton as chairman of the House Retirement Committee comes as the state prepares to observe the 90th anniversary of King’s birth on Monday.
Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, stripped Benton of his chairmanship of the Human Relations and Aging Committee in June 2017 after Benton distributed an article to his House colleagues titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States.” Ralston also removed Benton from a civics education study committee, despite having just named him to it.
The article was just one in a string of provocative comments or legislative proposals from the retired high school history teacher from Jackson County, 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. In 2016, Benton drew national condemnation for claiming the Klan “was not so much a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”
“It made a lot of people straighten up,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”
We just have to give these racist losers a second chance, and a third, and a fourth and forever and ever.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, only the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia, briefly bowed out of his duties in the state Senate on Friday in protest of a tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Fairfax (D), who normally presides over Richmond’s upper chamber, stepped off the dais and let a Republican wield the gavel while Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-King George) marked Lee’s 212th birthday with praise for “a great Virginian and a great American.”
“I believe there are certain people in history we should honor that way in the Senate . . . and I don’t believe that he is one of them,” Fairfax, a descendant of slaves, said in an interview afterward . “I think it’s very divisive to do what was done there, particularly in light of the history that we’re now commemorating — 400 years since the first enslaved Africans came to the commonwealth of Virginia.
“And to do that in this year in particular was very hurtful to a lot of people,” Fairfax said. “It does not move us forward, it does not bring us together. And so I wanted to do my part to make it clear that I don’t condone it.”
Heaping praise on Lee is nothing unusual in the former capital of the Confederacy. For most of the United States, Friday was the last workday before the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. In Virginia, it was a state holiday: Lee-Jackson Day.
The General Assembly works through both the Lee-Jackson and MLK holidays, and elected officials from both parties have traditionally used the occasions to tip their hats to the Confederates and King alike. Comedian Stephen Colbert lampooned the Virginia Senate in 2013 for adjourning its MLK Day session in honor of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — on a motion from a Democrat, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath.
But they were good people, I hear.
No, they were slaveowners. Your ancestors owned my ancestors. And we still celebrate that at the state government level in multiple states in 2019, because racism in America hasn't really changed that much at all in 400 years.