At one point in my career in education, I worked with an administrator who, as I discussed with him a problem I thought needed to be addressed, said “One of my roles as an administrator is to drag my feet until problems go away.”
As one might surmise, he was a poor and ineffective administrator.
Unfortunately, this approach problem solving — for which I’ll apply the acronym DMFUPGA — does not work in the long run. The problems do not just go away. They go underground, where they fester and grow and send out tentacles, spreading the infection throughout the organism.
And when critical mass is reached, a tipping point occurs, and the problems erupt with an exponential force many times greater than the original problem.
I would submit that the seemingly spontaneous demonstrations against racism in every corner of our nation today are not just the result of the George Floyd episode or any of the other recent racial episodes. They are the fruit of our consistent application of DMFUPGA dating back to 1619.
Today, I want to weigh in (again) primarily on racist symbols. I have written about this topic twice in this column — in July 2015 and September 2017 — after which I got several responses asking in which kennel I was born.
One such symbol is the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in our state Capitol. It’s been a problem for years and is a perfect example of DMFUPGA.
One member recently told his colleagues in the legislature that they know the right thing to do and will vote to remove the bust when they can find enough “political cover” to do so. That is to say, so it won’t hurt their chances of getting reelected.
It’s sad that too many of our lawmakers do not possess some of those qualities (moral courage, mental toughness, strength to do what’s right regardless of party, and other similar attributes) that would put them in the “statesmen” category. They’re mostly just run-of-the-mill politicians who are trying to survive the next election.
Gov. Lee initially leaned toward removing the bust. Then he moved to the “add more context” position and more recently to the “let’s have more dialogue” position.
Forrest has been controversial since the Civil War. Any interested person knows all the context. And dialogue about this particular bust has gone on for over 40 years. Wanting more context and dialogue is simply a good example of DMFUPGA in progress.
Our legislature has restructured the State Historical Commission, requiring a two-thirds majority for any action to be taken, and it is getting ready to add more members who are opposed to any change.
This commission has control over all statues, busts, flags, seals, plaques, building names and anything else of a historical nature. And as far as I can tell, this body does not have regularly scheduled meeting times and does not seem to be required to act on any question asked of it. Could it be that the legislature plans to use this commission for “political cover”?
When Lee asked to have “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” removed as a state commemorative day so he would not have to issue a proclamation about it, the legislature removed the requirement that he proclaim it but left the day in place. Trying to please everybody?
Recently, the speaker said he did not think there were any true racists in the House. Facts and/or lack of action say differently. Just not using racist terms or having lunch with a black person is not enough. Failing to understand the feelings of a large segment of the state’s population as well as failing to consider actions that would help reduce the barriers between us is racism at its subtlest.
And when two black senators requested that Nathan Bedford Forrest Day be removed from special observances in the state, the Senate majority leader (who is from Williamson County) thanked them for their appeal but said that this was not the time to make this change and invited them to try again next year.
Just another case of DMFUPGA.
Those who are wedded to this wait-until-next-year position would do well to consider the question posed by Hillel, a Jewish teacher and philosopher, who lived in the late B.C. early A.D. period.
“And if not now, when?”
We’ve been kicking this same can down the road for over 150 years. It’s about time we looked for some permanent answers.
Now, closer to home, what about our county’s official seal and the statue in the center of Franklin’s public square? They are both under the thumb of the Historical Commission and Brad Perry’s recent opinion piece in this newspaper said what needed to be said about these topics.
However, I read where one of our local officials said that he did not want to tamper with the seal and be accused of attempting to “erase history.”
That is a worn out and spurious argument that has no validity. By removing Forrest’s bust or taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue or changing the name of Fort Hood, we are saying we will not laud or honor or venerate those who were traitors to our country and who fought to preserve such a despicable institution as slavery.
And don’t get caught up in the “lost cause” or “the Civil War was not about slavery” arguments. They are equally as bogus.
And the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which at one time claimed ownership of the whole square, needs to think seriously about moving the statue to a Confederate cemetery while it can still be done with some degree of grace.
It has been said that there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
Now, I do not pretend to know whether all the recent racial incidents produced the critical mass or the death of George Floyd was the tipping point. Only time will tell. But the daily protests all over our country point in that direction. However, this I do know: There will come a time when dragging our feet until problems go away will not work anymore.