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“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we will find that we have lost the future.” – Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
Kate Smith’s statue gets covered over because of a song she sang 80 years ago. Dowling Street in Houston, named for a Confederate hero, gets renamed Emancipation. A set of paintings of George Washington are painted over because he was a slaveholder. These are just a few instances of history being erased, rewritten, or removed from the public view because standards have changed.
Take the example of Dick Dowling, the man for whom Dowling Street was named. It was renamed because of discrimination against blacks in the South. Dowling fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy. The Confederacy wanted to preserve slavery. Dowling, therefore, should be written out of history.
Yet Dowling was a victim of discrimination, too. He was an Irishman and in mid-19th-century America, the Irish were not really viewed as white. In many ways, the treatment accorded the Irish between 1840 and 1860 somewhat paralleled the treatment accorded blacks a century later.
One reason Dowling joined the Confederate Army, organizing a company of artillerymen, was to prove that an Irishman was every bit as good as a white man. Despite that desire, Dowling’s company was shifted off to an isolated and unimportant fort on the Texas coast, because the Confederates did not want these Irishmen around. Thus, Dowling, his 53 men, and six guns were the only forces available to fight off an invading Union force consisting of six ironclads, nearly 20 transports, and several thousand soldiers. That they drove off the invaders was a feat of arms respected even by their opponents.
Yet today Dowling, who fought for a form of racial equality, has had his street renamed. An attempt was made to dynamite the statue of him in Hermann Park a few years back. All because he fought for the racist Confederacy.
What those who have endorsed these actions fail to realize is that by attempting to erase Dowling they have given permission to some future social justice warrior to erase black heroes from history. Take General Benjamin O. Davis. He fought for reasons remarkably parallel to those of Dowling — to prove “colored” men (as blacks were called back then) could fight for their country as valiantly as white men.
He led the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, despite the racism of the 1940s United States. I am pretty sure Davis’s opinions on issues such as transgender rights and same-sex marriage would be politically incorrect today. If we can rename streets named for Dowling due to his unacceptable support of the Confederacy, how long will it be before there are calls to rename streets and schools named for Davis because of his unacceptable views on gender fluidity?Published in