AUSTIN, WE HAVE A PROBLEM – The past will be made safe:
Known as both the “father of Texas” and the namesake of the state’s capital, Stephen F. Austin carved out the early outlines of Texas among his many accomplishments.
He also opposed an attempt by Mexico to ban slavery in the province of Tejas and said if slaves were freed, they would turn into “vagabonds, a nuisance and a menace.”
For that reason, the city of Austin’s Equity Office suggested renaming the city in a report about existing Confederate monuments that was published this week.
I’m not an expert on Texan history, but it strikes me that almost everyone in the South until the Civil War (not to mention long afterwards) thought that slavery was a good idea. The “peculiar institution” is an abhorrent idea to all of us today – and rightfully so – just like so many other practices that were widely accepted in the past, like witch hunting, torture, public executions, and so on. The further back in time you go the harder it becomes to find any prominent historical figure who held beliefs that would be acceptable to us today in our enlightened 21st century. Stephen F. Austin is no exception (and I’m pretty sure that 99% of Austin residents have no idea who Stephen F. Austin was or what views he held on any issue). But if only the really virtuous deserve to be remembered (a sort of a secular sainthood), then we should change pretty much every historical name of a geographic location. Probably starting with Washington DC. Washington, after all, was a slave-owner; and Colombia, of course, refers to Christopher Columbus who brought the European colonialism to the Americas. This similarly applies to the state of Washington as well as to Columbus, Ohio, and all the other many locations named after either gentlemen or pretty much every Founding Father or explorer. We really can go on forever: Harvard University is named after one of its benefactor founders, Reverend John Harvard, who was a Puritan, and as well all know, Puritans were religious bigots and extremists with completely unacceptable ideas about the social order, the role of women, the race relations, sexuality, not to mention witch burning. Yale, in turn, is named after Elihu Yale, who was a slave-trader and a corrupt official of the East India Company. So good luck with all that.