A bill creating a slavery memorial in the Florida Capitol took its first steps toward fruition this week.
The Senate Oversight and Accountability Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 286. The sponsor, Sen. Darryl Rouson, said the memorial would recognize “… the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery,” according the News Service of Florida.
This is significant because a similar bill was crafted in the House in 2016, and passed 118-0.
But the bill was DOA because the Senate refused to hear the bill at all. Well, not so much the Senate, but Sen. Dennis Baxley who chaired the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee — with the power to decide the fate of the bill.
Baxley, who never met a controversy he didn’t help fuel, has apparently changed his mind. In quashing the bill last year, he told news sources, “I have a discomfort about memorializing slavery, … I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery, … I love black people, … I love white people. … It’s not a racial thing to me.”
Baxley’s forefathers fought for the Confederacy. He’s a frequent speaker at what might be termed Deep South get-togethers.
But he does not limit the scope of his philosophy to ancestral bigotry. It was Baxley who made headlines after the 14 nursing home deaths following Hurricane Irma, going to bat for the businesses. To wit: “Look at the problem. You’re dealing with 90-somethings. Some of these deaths would naturally occur, storm or no storm. Eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die. But we don’t need to attribute those all to storm and bad policy.”
Actually, 12 of the 14 deaths were officially ruled homicides in late November.
Baxley has recently voted against replacing Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith’s statue in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., and replacing it with a statue of civil rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune.
Rouson said the propose memorial would “honor the nameless and forgotten men and women and children who have gone unrecognized for their undeniable and weighty contributions to this state and country.”
Is that not conceptualization in its most formidable form?