Capitol Alert

Heritage or hatred? Assembly debates nixing Confederate names

Historical figures or hateful avatars? How you see former leaders of the Confederacy depends much on your perspective.

Extending a debate that has swirled from Charleston to California, Assembly members on Monday spent a fervent few minutes debating and then passing a resolution that would urge Congress and the president to strip the names of Confederate leaders from federal buildings, roads and other pieces of property.

The author of the resolution, Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, last year pushed a bill to erase Confederate place names in California that could have renamed Fort Bragg, a tiny town on the northern California coast that’s known more for its beach of polished glass fragments than for being named after General Braxton Bragg. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Glazer’s bill, calling it “an issue quintessentially for local decision makers.”

But plenty of lawmakers think it’s an issue for members of Congress. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, argued that nixing such names nationwide would communicate that “we do not tolerate, celebrate or welcome displays of oppression, hatred or bigotry in public funded spaces.”

“By continuing to honor confederate leaders who fought against our country to defend the institution of slavery,” said Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, “we perpetuate a long flirtation in this nation with a selective, I would say abjectly false, nostalgia.”

Disputing the need for the bill, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, argued for a more inclusive view of history, asserting that Confederate titan General Robert E. Lee “was a leader within Virginia and many things beyond what had to with the confederates.”

“If we start purging our history, the lessons that can be learned by our youth on what was good and bad by everyone are going to be lost,” Chavez said. “We cannot re-engineer history. We just have to understand what history is.”

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert