Georgians have seen too many racists and extremist conservatives making decisions for our state.
State Rep. Tommy Benton has repeatedly been in the spotlight for his racism, and yet he was appointed to the Civics Committee, a group tasked with “furthering Georgia’s students’ civic literacy.” This position would have allowed Benton, a known KKK defender, to make recommendations to the state Board of Education on how and what to teach our students.
Benton came under fire last year when he first defended of the Klu Klux Klan. The KKK “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said. “It made a lot of people straighten up. I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”
The fact that we have a state representative who minimizes the violence and white supremacy of the KKK as “just the way things were” is troubling, to say the least.
Benton bristles at any attempt to call the Confederacy and the KKK what it was — violent racism. State Sen. Vincent Fort sponsored legislation that would prohibit the state from formally observing holidays “celebrating the Confederate States of America.” Benton reacted by comparing Fort’s bill, legislation that works against celebrating slavery, to the terroristic acts of ISIS, showing a lack of understanding on all fronts of the issue.
Benton further responded to Fort’s legislation with several neo-Confederate bills: one to prohibit any alteration of the Stone Mountain carving and another to re-install Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day as official state holidays.
Yet another bill would have reverted streets renamed since the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. back to their pre-1968 names. Had the bill passed, it would have caused part of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlanta to return to the name Gordon Road, in honor of Gen. John B. Gordon, a Confederate general and a leader in the Ku Klux Klan.
After all of his overt racism, Benton was still named a chairman to a committee designed to influence young Georgians. He was finally reprimanded for his actions and removed from this position when he mailed an article to legislators titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States” a few weeks ago. But, of course, this punishment only came after officials like Speaker David Ralston ignored and tolerated his extremism long enough to award him with the power to introduce his racist views to Georgia students.
In Georgia, extremists like Benton are able to grab positions of power because many conservative candidates run unopposed. We need progressive candidates to challenge them in elections for every, single local and state office, or Georgia will continue to be plagued by backwards politicians who don’t represent their constituents.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never considered running for public office. But there’s no reason not to run.
You can challenge these extremist conservatives and prevent them from making decisions that affect everyone in the state by running for office. You can become a candidate that actually represents the people and pushes for the progress Georgians are asking for.