A Civil action

Our view : Johns Hopkins' choice to oust Confederate commemorators is the right call

November 21, 2008

These days, the term "political correctness" is used most commonly by the political right to rage against allegedly misguided efforts to minimize public offense, particularly on the subjects of race and sex. There's a better term for the decision by Johns Hopkins University officials not to host on campus - just days before the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president - 200 sons and daughters of the Confederacy, some of whom would be dressed as Confederate soldiers and carry a Confederate battle flag.

It's called common sense.

People have a right to their romantic images of the Confederacy. Memorials honoring those who served and died in the Civil War, sons of the South included, are important reminders of our nation's history. Certainly, no one should ever be banned from laying a wreath at a Robert E. Lee monument in a public park, assuming it's done in a peaceful manner - as these organizations have long done. There's even a place for re-enactors.

But this same banner of stars and bars has been used as a symbol of white supremacy and the suppression of blacks for generations. To ignore that connection is to deny 140 years of history from the birth of the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the modern civil rights movement and the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is commemorated as a holiday that falls two days after the planned Jan. 17 event.

Hopkins officials have taken the appropriate action and suggested the Confederate groups look elsewhere to share coffee and cookies after the Wyman Park ceremony. That's their right as a private organization. At such an auspicious moment in our nation's history, it's regrettable only that these descendants of the Confederacy can't muster a little more sensitivity, too.

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