The subject of America’s painful past with slavery is in the news again. Good….we need to have this debate.

What brought it up this time is the effort in Mississippi to get approval for a particular new license plate.

Plans for a Mississippi specialty license plate honoring controversial Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest are reviving tensions over “unreconstructed” Southerners and their place in the modern South.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans want to honor Forrest on a 2014 specialty license plate…

But the state NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and a Facebook group are raising objections, saying that a state-sanctioned Forrest license plate sends a not-so-subtle signal to African-Americans that Mississippi condones a man who helped start the Ku Klux Klan after the war.

On the heritage of the South, I defer to those most directly linked. Starting with this HuffPo commentator.

If the account he cites there is true, it’s sickening and repulsive. Most people of common sense and goodwill are beyond even questioning or debating that. America largely thought we triumphed over our racist past in 2008 when an African-American man was elected president. Half black, half white, Barack Obama represented for many people the post-racist modern era of tolerance, diversity and acceptance of common and shared humanity.

But the wrinkle in this picture was always the troubling and frankly, intellectually staggering, debt this politician….as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a few others….owed or tried to pay to the abortion movement. With seemingly no awareness of not just the similarity between the two movements, but the exact mirror images of abortion to slavery.

What isn’t clear about this? One whole class of human beings was deprived of their rights when their entire being was subordinated to the will of another class of human beings who ‘owned’ them and could determine their fate at will. In our ‘modern’ age, it’s….exactly the same. One whole class of human beings is being deprived of their rights while their entire being is subordinated to the will of another class of human beings who have the legal right to determine their fate, whether they live or die, with no guarantee of constitutional protection or recognition as persons under the U.S. Constitution.

Let’s look at that HuffPo commentary again.

When debates arise over symbols and heritage and identification I am infuriated when such ideas as this license plate rears their ugly heads. We can’t have one state, much less one nation, when we embrace symbols that reflect a tense and asymmetrical heritage.

It’s a false heritage we seek to elevate when our symbols divide rather than include. Our energy and spirits are washed down into the gutter when we fight to uphold a heritage that seeks to alienate rather than embrace.

Yes, some of our heritage belongs in museums. We have plenty of nobility and decency to embrace and stand on, stand on together, without the insecurities and ignorance of racism elevated to places of honor.


I caught CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing gentlemen on both sides of this debate and was struck that in the closing comments, the Princeton professor lamented ‘the erasure and revision’ going on here.” Why, I wonder, can’t they see the obvious?

Dr. Alveda King works to help them, every day. Like…this one.

I have always found it interesting that two polar opposite anniversaries are in January: the life of a man who promoted religion, peace, nonviolence and justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, which allows the violence and injustice of abortion.

Since 1973 there have been 53 million abortions.

It is fitting that this month Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia was arrested on Jan. 19. He is charged with killing seven babies who were born alive during the abortion procedure, killing one patient and a host of other crimes.

The seven babies Gosnell is charged with murdering were born alive during the attempt to abort them. To terminate the babies’ lives, which is abortion’s essence, he shoved scissors into the babies’ necks and severed their spinal cords…

Gosnell is not being charged for the thousands of babies he killed before they were born.

Without a doubt, King would oppose Gosnell’s actions. As a Christian minister and civil rights leader, King would have impressed upon Gosnell and Americans the difference between a just and unjust law.

Which comes, full circle, to the issue at hand. It’s so clear.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The Negro cannot win . . . if he is willing to sell the future of his children for his personal and immediate comfort and safety.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....