A battle is brewing in Mississippi, and it seems to be the same one that was fought in the post-Civil War 1800s.
This resurgence of the tainted history of the South’s past is over something often overlooked: license plates.
A proposed license plate would honor Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a military general who also was one of the earliest members of the Ku Klux Klan.
In reaction to the proposed license plate, Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson told the Associated Press: “Seriously? … Wow.”
The editorial board sat with the same astonishment at the news.
The Ku Klux Klan should never be honored.
While it seems inherently simple that an honorary license plate for a KKK member would ruffle feathers and offend many, there are some in Mississippi still trying their hardest to get this license plate approved.
The Mississippi division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that commemorates the history of the Confederacy in the South, is the main advocacy group for the proposed license plate.
The group says it plans to produce a commemorative license plate every year, beginning in 2011, leading up to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2015.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans call the Civil War by another name: The War Between the States.
The Sons of the Confederate Veterans reveres Forrest for his military brilliance, and his plate would be released in 2014.
In the mind of many, his military work in no way outweighs his involvement in a group well-known for its racist hate crimes.
Also, Forrest was not even born in Mississippi.
He is a Tennessee native and is most infamous, aside from possibly being the first “grand wizard” in the Klan, for a massacre of an all-black Union troop in 1864.
His involvement in the Klan is more well known than his “military brilliance.”
So, the question isn’t whether the production of the license plate is right or wrong. This tribute is undeniably wrong.
The real question is how could the Sons of Confederate Veterans possibly justify the glorification of a known Klan leader and racist?
While Forrest is thought to have grown away from the Klan late in his life, it was after a long bout of severe violence.
Moreover, the other plates being released in the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 all depict battlefields or landscapes in Mississippi, The only plate commemorating a person is the one honoring Forrest.
There is still the chance for the Mississippi legislature to prevent the distribution of this atrocity and that is a step that should be taken.
While honoring the history of the South is something we don’t think should be stopped, honoring a man with a history entangled in violence and racism is step backward for the state.