They did it to Andrew Jackson. They did it to John Wayne. They did it to John U. Lloyd.
John U. Lloyd is not usually mentioned in the same breath as great presidents and iconic movie stars. Lloyd is merely a public servant whose name graces a state park in Broward County, Florida.
Make that “graced,” past tense.
Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a bill removing John U. Lloyd’s name from the beach park and renaming it in honor of Von D. Mizell and Eula Johnson.
Mizell and Johnson led the “wade-ins” that led to the desegregation of whites-only beaches in Broward County. Lloyd, who died in 1975, was the longtime county attorney who helped amass the oceanfront land that became the park that until recently bore his name. That same land at one time was called “the colored beach.”
But that’s not all Lloyd did. As the county attorney, he participated in the county’s failed effort to keep the beaches segregated.
As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported, the renaming was slightly botched by the failure to tell Lloyd’s widow that the honor was being revoked in favor of the two civil rights activists. Terry Lloyd Kettering found out when she read an account of the renaming in the newspaper. She was shocked and saddened.
She will have to take solace in the fact that her deceased husband now is in such august company as Jackson and Wayne. Because the renamings and revisions are only just getting started. I applaud the changes for two main reasons. The debates are instructive. And the changes are marks of progress.
As marks of progress, they give me hope in these days of regressionists like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, (aka Lucifer in the Flesh.)
President Jackson, who held horrible views on blacks and Native Americans, is being kicked off the front of the $20 bill in favor of Harriet Tubman, the courageous abolitionist. The California state Assembly just defeated a resolution that would have declared May 26 as John Wayne Day. The Duke’s open disparagement of blacks and Native Americans as well as his support for the Cold-War era witch hunts by the House Un-American Activities Committee were too much for California lawmakers to swallow.
More renamings, revisions and replacements are coming – perhaps they’ll even get around to renaming the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif.
Charlottesville, Va., is appointing a community board to grapple with the prospect of moving its famous equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the city’s downtown parks.
My alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, recently renamed Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall, removing the name of William Saunders, reputedly a Ku Klux Klan founder.
Princeton University refused to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its School of Public Policy and International Affairs – Wilson was president of the university before he was president of the United States – but Princeton pledged efforts to admit more minorities to the program and to put Wilson’s racist views in support of segregation “into context.”
People who held the prevailing views of their time should not be judged solely by evolved modern views. They could be good people in other parts of their lives; debates about figures now in disgrace should illuminate that fact and the complexity of historical bigotry.
But neither can now-offensive views be excused away by simply referring to them as “our heritage.”
The Confederate Flag might be “heritage,” but proudly displaying it today makes it a disgraceful heritage.
The tide of support for Donald Trump contains a strong and odious element of resistance to inclusive views on race, ethnicity and gender. It is the opposite of the movement toward progressive views on race.
Trump’s pledge is to “Make America Great Again.” But there are great Americans who were great because they recognized that America was not so great for some classes of people.
Trump’s reactionary pledge is to Make America Great Again for angry white males. I’ve never understood why members of this group – poorly educated and slipping economically – put their trust in a silver-spoon billionaire spewing empty promises. Perhaps it is because there is a deeply racist and misogynistic element in Trump’s pitch.
He’ll make Mexico build a wall to keep its rapists out. He cheers on supporters roughing up black protesters. He is crass and demeaning toward women.
Trump’s counterfeit vision is of an America that is “great again” for the beneficiaries of bigotry. Progress demands that we instead turn to those striving to make America great for everyone.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida.