Notes from Kent Smith
Sometimes legislation is about the past. Sometimes, it’s about the future. But on June 12, 2020, it was about both.
On February 13, 1861, President – elect Abraham Lincoln spoke to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly at a celebration of the recently completed Ohio Statehouse. Less than five years later, our nation’s 16th President would lay in the rotunda of the Statehouse following his assassination.
Following several days of nationwide protests and debates about the relevance and meaning of Civil War symbols, the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy and NASCAR all announced bans on Confederate memorabilia. In the early morning hours on June 12th, it was time to see if Ohio would do the same.
House Democratic lawmakers offered two amendments on the House floor to HB 665 that would have prohibited the sale, display, possession, or distribution of Confederate memorabilia at county and independent fairs. If enacted, this policy would be the same as had been instituted for the Ohio State Fair in 2015.
Unfortunately, Republicans rejected the amendments largely along party lines, voting to protect the sale of the Confederate flag.
The Ohio Legislature had an important opportunity to embrace diversity, proclaim black lives matter and help silence white supremacy in our state. Sadly, only the Democrats rose to the moment. History will not speak well of those Members of the General Assembly who chose - in 2020 - to protect the Confederate flag. We had received some signals that the GOP was going to join us for this amendment and why wouldn’t they - Ohio was a Union state in the Civil War; Lee had surrendered to Grant; slavery had been ended and the Union had been saved.
You can imagine that I was shocked and saddened when my Ohio General Assembly Republican colleagues not only chose to fight for the losing side, but did so not realizing the personal pain that they continue to cause when they embrace that modern-day symbol of terror. Racists need allies to continue their hate and on June 12th, they found many in the Ohio House chamber. For that, I am deeply disappointed.
Lincoln would not have believed his eyes.
State Representative Kent Smith represents Ohio’s 8th House District which includes Euclid, Beachwood, South Euclid, Richmond Heights, East Cleveland, Woodmere Village, and a little bit of the City of Cleveland.