UPDATE: 1/29/2016 3:10 P.M.
State representative Tommy Benton doubled down on his comments about slavery to WSB-TV Atlanta, defending the actions of the Confederacy and comparing slaves caught in the wake of the Civil War to “property.”
“The idea that slavery was the cause of the war, it wasn’t. The Southern states seceded because the North was advocating they do away with slavery, but they offered no idea as to what the South would do with a loss of $2 billion of property, per se,” Benton told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.
Nonprofit Better Georgia emailed a statement to NewsOne, along with a petition asking for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to denounce Benton’s views. The advocacy group works to achieve an equal representation of economic justice and government accountability for all Georgia residents.
“Rep. Benton’s defense of the KKK ignores a grave and dark history of violence and racism in Georgia and his description of human beings as ‘property’ is unconscionable,” the statement reads. “House Speaker David Ralston must immediately denounce Rep. Benton’s statements and make sure the representative’s neo-Confederate revisionist history bills never receive a hearing. Speaker Ralston should also remove Rep. Benton from his leadership role as Chair of the Human Relations & Aging committee.”
So far, the petition has over 1,000 signatures.
SOURCE: WSB-TV Atlanta
State Rep. Tommy Benton has come out in favor of two bills that will formally uphold holidays celebrating Confederate members and permanently protect the carvings of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at Stone Mountain National Park.
The site is also home to a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
His proposals, House Resolution 1179 and House Bill 855, are responses to Senate Bill 294, which refuses to acknowledge holidays that represent soldiers or other members of the Confederacy. Calling the act “cultural terrorism,” Benton has promised to protect the South’s deep (and undeniably unsettling) history.
As of today, Lee’s birthday on January 19th and Confederate Memorial Day on April 26 are recognizable holidays. State employees receive paid vacation days. However, Gov. Nathan Deal has them listed as generic holidays, the site writes.
Questions surrounding the KKK and the Confederacy’s influence reached its zenith last year following the Charleston massacre of nine Black church members by self-proclaimed White supremacist Dylann Roof. The NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have since demanded the carvings of Davis, Lee, and Jackson – all supporters and participants of the Civil War – be removed.
Benton compared criticism to a proposed “cultural cleansing” of Southern history. He also claimed the KKK had some good qualities.
Benton said there are two sides to that story as well. The Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said.
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.” “That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments,” he said in an exclusive interview this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “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.”
In a previous interview with AJC, Benton called concerns about the Confederacy a distraction from crime in the African-American community. “That flag didn’t’ shoot anybody and when I was growing up I had a couple of those flags. In fact I still have a couple of them. It doesn’t make me a racist,” he said. “Nobody said anything about black-on-black crime, and that’s about 98 percent of it. Nobody said anything about family life and who’s in the home and who’s not in the home. It’s always something else that is the problem.”
Sen. Vincent Fort, a supporter of Senate Bill 294, explained Georgia taxpayers shouldn’t have to honor those who owned slaves or protected slavery. Says the site:
“For him to degenerate into that kind of name calling is beneath a response from me,” Fort, D-Atlanta, said. “That kind of hyperbole does not allow for anything approaching a debate. It’s unfortunate that he would use that language.”
Fort defended his bill, saying the state shouldn’t be in the business of formerly “recognizing people who were slave owners or fought to protect slavery.”
“That’s it. Beginning and end. Slavery was a crime against humanity,” he said. “If someone wants to privately honor the Confederacy with their own memorial or flags, that’s fine, he said. “But I don’t believe that taxpayer funds should be used to commemorate people who stole the freedom of other human beings.”
Benton denies that the Civil War was about the protection of slavery. His other proposal, House Bill 854, has no cosponsors and is unlikely to receive a hearing. The bill requests street names changed after 1968 that replaced honored veterans go back to their original names. This would mean a piece of Martin Luther King Boulevard would revert back to Gordon Road.
Gen. John B. Gordon was a war hero and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He is celebrated on Capitol grounds with a statue and a decorated Confederate uniform.
Before Benton’s political career, he taught Georgia History and Govt. American History to middle school students from 1974 until his retirement in 2004.
SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution | VIDEO CREDIT: Inform