Apr 13, 2010

Confederate Month controversy

by Ethan Massey

For the first time in eight years, Virginia will be recognizing April as Confederate History Month. Gov. Bob McDonnell issued this proclamation earlier this week, drawing tremendous and mostly negative media attention.

Though many Americans would consider the Civil War the darkest chapter of U.S. history, it was McDonnell’s omission of any mention of slavery in his proclamation that drew the most complaints.

While Confederate History Month is new to many Virginians, the commemoration was first implemented in 1997 by Gov. George Allen and subsequently ended by Gov. Mark Warner, according to the Washington Post.

McDonnell’s omission has drawn fire from many U.S. media outlets as well as the Virginia chapter of the NAACP. The governor quickly issued a statement saying that his omission was a mistake and formally apologizing to anyone offended by his error. McDonnell also added a passage to his proclamation, calling slavery “an evil and inhumane practice,” according to his official press release.

Although some Virginians are quick to forgive their new governor, others such as Virginia State Sen. Henry Marsh III are not.

“He has a right to apologize, but I don’t accept that as a good answer because this is a pattern of this governor,” Marsh told CNN. “This has happened many, many times so I think it’s a question of whether or not he’s sincere or not.”

Sincerity aside, this issue begs the question of whether McDonnell’s actions or lack thereof warrant this level of criticism.

Despite the controversy that has arisen over McDonnell’s “mistake,” the governor’s original intention was to promote tourism in Virginia and to draw attention to the history of the state, according to ABC News.

Though the debate that has been sparked by McDonnell’s proclamation is an important one, it should not have any bearing on his ability to lead or on his character. It takes a man of integrity to say that he was wrong and a man of strength to stand behind his beliefs despite what others may think.

Contact Ethan Massey at

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