One Georgia lawmaker is staunchly defending the KKK, saying they “made people straighten up.” He is also proposing state holidays to honor the Confederacy because of course the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery.
State Rep. Tommy Benton (R) has introduced several new bills he says are aimed at stopping the “cultural cleansing” of Southern history and seeking to protect the legacy of the confederacy.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Benton said that the Ku Klux Klan, which the Southern Poverty Law Center regards as America’s oldest and most infamous hate group, “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 said. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.
Benton also said that being a racist piece of shit Klan member shouldn’t automatically exclude someone from being a revered historical figure.
A great majority of prominent men in the South were members of the Klan,” he said. “Should that affect their reputation to the extent that everything else good that they did was forgotten.
Sen. Vincent Fort, a history professor in addition to a legislator, says Benton’s comments are “unconscionable.”
What he’s doing is acting as an apologist for the Ku Klux Klan,” he said. “He’s right about elites like (past governors) of the state of Georgia being in the Klan, but just because it was the elites with the bullwhip doesn’t make it right.
The first of the bills Benton introduced, House Resolution 1179, ensures that “heroes of the Confederate States of America … shall never be altered, removed, concealed or obscured in any fashion and shall be preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”
Fort, who strongly opposes Benton’s legislation, says the state shouldn’t formally recognize “people who were slave owners or fought to protect slavery.”
That’s it. Beginning and end. Slavery was a crime against humanity.
Fort said that if you want to honor the confederacy in your own home, that is fine.
But I don’t believe that taxpayer funds should be used to commemorate people who stole the freedom of other human beings.
Benton’s second bill, House Bill 855, would require the state of Georgia to formally recognize and honor Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday on Jan. 19 and Confederate Memorial Day on April 26.
The debate over confederate symbols ramped up after the slaughter of nine African Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. last year and pictures of Dylan Roof, the shooter, turned up showing him posing with confederate flags.
Benton insists the Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with slavery.
“The war was not fought over slavery,” he said. Those who disagree “can believe what they want to,” he said.
Benton said that his bills are a direct response to measures that have been taken to remove confederate symbols, which he said is “cultural terrorism.”
That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments. I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don’t matter anymore and that’s a bunch of bunk.
Benton’s third bill, House Bill 854, requires that all streets named after veterans which were renamed after 1968 revert to their original names. While this doesn’t seem troubling on the surface, it would mean that a portion Martin Luther King Boulevard revert back to its original name, which was Gordon Road, named after Gen. John B. Gordon a confederate officer, governor, senator and early leader of Georgia’s KKK.
A group called Better Georgia started a petition in response to Benton’s comments, that had over 850 signatures on Friday morning.
Watch Rep. Benton double down on his totally not racist statements here, via Better Georgia.
Featured image via video screen capture