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Editorial: Removing the cannon on the Square is the only proper response to Gov. Kemp

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Editorial: Removing the cannon on the Square is the only proper response to Gov. Kemp

The cannon from the Indian War of 1836 that Andre Williams is walking past is one of the monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse that were demanded to be removed during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square June 17, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This post has been updated. 

Atlanta, GA — With the state Republican Party and Gov. Brian Kemp declaring war on discussing racism in classrooms, this is a good time for the Democrats of DeKalb County to escalate things.

You want to show him how you feel about whitewashing America’s racist history? Remove the “Indian War” cannon from the Decatur Square. The cannon was put in place in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. We don’t know how much the removal will cost or where the cannon will go, but those details shouldn’t be deal breakers.

Fonta High with the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights on March 20, spoke about the cannon’s ugly past on during a March “Decolonize Decatur Day” event in Decatur.

“This land that we are standing on, it belonged to the Muskogee (Creek) Nation and we occupy this land unjustly and it’s a privilege for us to be on this land. This cannon from 1836 was used to drive off the Muskogee people from this land,” High said during the press conference. “Not only did it drive off the Muskogee (Creek) people, but genocide was committed against them. Many died on the Trail of Tears and the country and this county owes the group of people known as the Muskogee (Creek). Many kids can be seen playing on this cannon which seems harmless, but this cannon is a weapon of war and it symbolized white supremacy.”

The Democrats’ smart play here is to remove the cannon and tell Kemp to come over here and pitch a fit about it.

At a minimum, it would be entertaining. But with the governor trying to suppress so-called critical race theory in classrooms, it’s the right time for a public rebuke of the structurally racist underpinnings of America. The governor is trying to bully our teachers and lie to our children. Let’s pick a fight.

And let’s get the obvious out of the way.

Gov. Kemp is up for reelection next year. With the signing of Georgia’s voter suppression bill, Kemp has the distinction of being the only state official who tried to steal his own election twice.

But Kemp has a problem. He wasn’t dumb enough to break the law for President Donald Trump, no matter what his campaign commercials would lead you to believe. Because Kemp wasn’t about to be the latest Trump associate to spend time in prison, he did what he was legally obligated to do: he followed the law and didn’t try to subvert Georgia’s 2020 election results in service to Trump’s lies.

He did not forswear subverting future elections, of course.

That won’t be enough get him there in a Republican primary. Kemp’s loyalty to Trump and Trumpism is in doubt. So, his only logical move is to distract Republican voters with showboating stands on issues that are essentially meaningless.

Critical race theory is the issue du jour. It has traction in far-right circles. In a nutshell, critical race theory posits that America is replete with structurally racist institutions that benefit white people more than Black people. These institutions are not relics. They are alive and well and pernicious.

They’re rooted in the institution of slavery. This country was built with slave labor and by taking land away from the people who already lived here. The cannon used against the Muskogee people only reinforces that that fundamental truth about this country. These are the facts. They really should not be controversial or in dispute. I mean, for God’s sake, Gov. Kemp signed a bill overhauling citizens’ arrest laws and a new hate crimes bill after the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery by a group of white men. He damn well knows this state and country is racist af, as the kids say.

But as my friend George Chidi has noted, the objective for Republicans is to ensure enough white kids graduate school with their racist biases intact so they won’t go rogue on them and vote for a Democrat. They needn’t worry as critical race theory isn’t being taught in Georgia’s classrooms anyway. Like bills targeting transgender athletes, barring schools from teaching critical race theory is a solution in search of a problem.

They do provide a convenient distraction and inoculate Kemp from challenges on the right. The governor also took a page from one of his old rivals’ playbook by pressuring the state School Board to pass a resolution in support of banning the teaching of racism in Georgia’s classrooms. Former lieutenant governor Casey Cagle, if you’ll recall, filed a complaint with the Immigration Enforcement Review board accusing the city of Decatur of being a Sanctuary City, harboring people suspected of being in the country illegally and refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Rather than rolling over and letting Cagle kick them, Decatur fought back. The end result was the dismantling of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board.

Decatur likes to throw punches.

The Confederate monument marred the Square for years and at first the city and county were hesitant to act. There’s a state law protecting Confederate monuments. But once again, using sly legal maneuvers, Decatur convinced a judge to declare a Confederate obelisk in the Square a nuisance. And down it went in June of 2020. Right before Juneteenth, no less.

I’m sure the current pandering incarnation of Gov. Kemp would love to suppress teaching our kids what Juneteenth is all about. But when the monument in Decatur came down, Kemp and the Republicans did … absolutely nothing.

They have talked a big game, but when local officials here call their bluff, the Republicans pushing this racist nonsense fold like a lawn chair.

I have no reason to believe that won’t be the case here.

Find a pretext. Remove the cannon. And if Kemp wants it back on the Square, invite him to drag it out there himself and if he does, remove it again.

I’m sure Decatur is smart enough to figure this out. Kemp is smarter than he appears in his campaign commercials, but he’ll have no answer for this.

That cannon should be easier to move than that obelisk was. So, there’s that. Go for it, Decatur.

Bonus points if you relocate it to Kemp’s lawn.

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