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If Confederate Soldiers Can Have Street, So Should Sandra Bland

by Todd A. Smith

 

What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander

 

The city of Houston has gone out of its way to honor Dick Dowling.


The Irish immigrant born in 1837 in the Irish town of Tuam has a street named after him in Houston’s Third Ward as well as a statue nearby in Hermann Park.


Dowling was a successful businessman, organizing the city’s first commercial gas company according to HoustonTX.gov.


He was also a soldier for the Confederate army.


Despite the Confederacy’s championing of Black enslavement, the city still honors him in a predominately Black neighborhood (Dowling Street and Tuam Street), which is also home to Texas Southern University.


Nevertheless, 50 miles north in Prairie View, Texas many criticize the city council for naming a stretch of University Boulevard leading up to Prairie View A&M University Sandra Bland Parkway because she allegedly committed suicide and talked back to a police officer.


While I was initially undecided on whether it was the right time to name a street after Bland, the reality is that many streets and monuments are named for people with controversial backgrounds like slave masters and Confederate soldiers.


Therefore, if it’s OK to immortalize those on the wrong side of history, it should definitely be OK to immortalize those on the right side of history like Bland.


According to the Houston Chronicle, the name change to Sandra Bland Parkway will last for three to five years until a permanent memorial is erected to honor the late Prairie View alum.


Despite the near unanimous decision by the council, many residents oppose the name change, despite the audience of mostly Prairie View A&M students supporting the effort.


According to the Houston Chronicle, “One such resident was 48-year-old Wendy Williams, who teaches high school in Prairie View and has lived in the city her entire life.  She said many in the community would not have supported…the name change, perhaps preferring to name the street after police officers who had died in the line of duty.


“Williams said the meeting was not well publicized among city residents.”


While police officers that have died in the line of duty should be honored, I do not think it would be appropriate to name that stretch of highway after a police officer, especially in the light of what happened to Bland there.


To name a street leading up to a historically Black university after a police officer considering what happened to Bland and the Black Lives Matter movement would be worse than pouring salt on an open wound.


It would signify to Black Americans that their lives really do not matter to some segments of the population, which would justify the need for the Black Lives Matter movement.


A Black lady loses her life because of an unjust arrest, and to honor her we name that street after a police officer.


Not cool at all in my book.


Like all human beings, Bland probably did not do everything right in her life and in that situation.

But neither did those we honor like Dowling.

 

If we can find the honor in the positive things that an ex Confederate soldier did in his life and honor that, we most certainly can do the same for Bland and others who suffered the same fate.

This article was published on Friday 28 August, 2015.
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