To the editor:
Upon reading the letters from Jimm Roberts, “Keep the name, switch the fame,” on Jan. 19, and Carrie Devorah, “Tear no more names down,” on Feb. 2 concerning keeping the names of streets specifically named for Confederate military officers and men but changing the person for whom the street is named, I found them to be both unimpressive and uncompelling in their arguments.
I fail to see how someone who happens to share the same surname as the “Confederate 41” for whom the streets were named is going to be insulted that a street named after someone else is going to be changed. Likewise, I don’t think anyone with the first name Jubal or Braxton is going to be offended either.
Likewise, I cannot agree that a onetime street name change is an enormous inconvenience for those people who live on the streets being renamed. I am a retired Air Force Colonel who was transferred 12 times while serving and have made three moves since my retirement. For each and every move I’ve had to change the addresses on my checkbooks, websites, bank records, brokerage records, credit cards, magazine subscriptions and tax records. There are hundreds of thousands of military people who do the same things regularly. It is aggravating but not difficult.
Keeping the Confederate names on the street signs as is, even if we pretend to name them after someone else, is not a step that bonds or “unites” us but the opposite. Let me be very clear. In the midst of a nascent civil rights movement including cases that led to Brown vs. the Board of Education, the government of Alexandria, in an exercise of white supremacy, deliberately honored military people who in many cases violated their oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and instead committed sedition and treason in the name of preserving slavery.
It does not matter whether they were pardoned or contributed to the nation after the war. The 1953 Alexandria Ordinance honored them for what they did in the Civil War. I think leaving the names of seditious enslavers on street signs as is and pretend they belong to someone else divides rather than unites.
The names are a continual reminder to those descendants of slaves that the men “honored” on those street signs fought and killed to keep people in slavery. And that the 1953 street ordinance, explicitly directing the naming of streets after those men, was yet another expression of white supremacy.
I might also add that only changing the context and not the names on the signs honoring Confederates severely restricts the options available to those who might be honored for their service to this community. Certainly, there are Alexandrians who are not named Gordan or Hardee or Imboden or Jackson who have contributed much to this city and should be honored.
I fully support Mayor Justin Wilson’s initiative but if Roberts’ suggestion is to be considered, let’s make sure that new street signs that completely spell out the person’s full name are erected so that there can be no misinterpretation of who we are now honoring.
-Raymond S. Eresman, Alexandria