South Carolina’s Confederate past clashes with a recent movement to eliminate racist names, images and symbols in the military.
Defense ministry officials, military leaders and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are debating whether to rename major bases named after Confederate officers. One of the largest Confederate groups in Palmetto State, with more than 3,000 members, is attacking the idea.
Jamie Graham, the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ SC Division commander and retired Army sergeant, said the idea of renaming the bases was wrong.
“The Confederates have been a part of American history for a long time,” he said. “I think it’s a travesty to change the names of these bases. You pick a band.”
The military has historically recognized Confederation over the years. Three of the largest bases in the world – Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort Benning in Georgia – are named after Confederate generals.
Ten army bases have been appointed for Confederate leaders. A 2017 study by the Congressional Research Service found that there was no Navy or Marine Corps base named for Confederate military leaders.
South Carolina was the first state to separate from the Union in 1860 and was one of the founding members of Confederation. The attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was the first major engagement of the Civil War. Many battles took place in the state of Palmetto, and even after the Union victory, monuments and memorials are located in many towns and villages.
But none of the state’s major military bases are named after Confederate leaders.
Fort Jackson in Columbia, the Army’s largest basic training base, is named after Andrew Jackson, a native of Caroline and former president. The seventh president is often criticized for his racist policies that discriminate against Native Americans. In 2016, efforts were announced to phase out its image on the $ 20 bill and replace it with abolitionist Harriet Tubman by 2020. Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the bill was released. delayed by almost a decade.
The debate to rename US military bases comes after the death of George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis whose death at the hands of the police was caught on camera. After the clip gained attention, protests took place across the country, including South Carolina.
A long-awaited dialogue on police brutality, systemic racism and equality has been sparked. Namesakes for US military bases were brushed off the conversation. Biparty proposals in the House and Senate emerged last week to change the names.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, released a statement praising the movement in Congress, stating that “the names of traitors to our country should not be prominently displayed in public spaces, such as lands, schools and public parks, and especially not recognized by any military asset.
Trump, however, can be an obstacle to the campaign. The commander-in-chief took to Twitter to close the debate on changing the name of the bases.
“These monumental and very powerful bases are now part of a great American heritage and a story of victory, victory and freedom. The United States of America has trained and deployed our HEROES in these sacred lands and won. two world wars, ”Trump said. tweeted last week. “Therefore, my administration will not even consider renaming these magnificent and legendary military installations.”
Even Trump’s administrators, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, said they were “open to a bipartisan discussion on the subject.”
The debate comes amid a push within the military to identify and tackle racism within the ranks.
Despite the quick move to rename the bases, Graham said he was unfazed. He was in the military for 10 years and served at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg.
“No matter what you changed the name to, I’ve always served at Fort Bragg,” he said.
A February survey by the Military Times found that more than a third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological racism in the country. within the service.
In March, Marine Corps Commander Gen. David Berger called on officers to create a policy to remove Confederate-related paraphernalia from all branch bases.
This month, the Navy and Marines finalized orders to ban the display of the Confederate flag.
In late May, the SC National Guard made a statement announcing that it was conducting a military investigation after a staff member’s racist social media posts were brought to its attention.
To reach Thomas novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter.