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Highway 99 is Racist

I've been driving on highway 99 for all my adult life, and only yesterday did I discover it's racist.

They covered this issue last night on NPR's All Things Considered. It turns out that Highway 99's true name is the "Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway." Don't know who Jefferson Davis is? Neither did Washington State Representive Hans Dunshee until he noticed a historical marker by the side of the road and learned that the route was named after the one-and-only President of the Confederacy during the civil war. Outraged, Dunshee proposed renaming the Highway after a black Union soldier named William P. Stewart, and this proposal was unanimously approved by the state House of Representatives.

While no fan of the Confederate cause, I must say that the drive in the last few decades to purge American history of all references to events, people and ideas which are currently viewed as unacceptable bothers me to no end. What ever happened to learning from your mistakes? If I was somehow able to forget all the bad and foolish things I have ever done in my life I would then almost certainly embark on a career of repeating each and every forgotten blunder.

Representative Dunshee insisted that "in this state, we cannot have a monument to a guy who led the insurgency to perpetuate slavery and killed half a million Americans" And yet the state itself in named after a man who owned slaves, George Washington. When this was pointed out to Dunshee, he simply replied that George Washington was remembered for uniting the nation, while Jefferson Davis is remembered for dividing it. How quick we are to "remember" the laudable qualities of our those we deem heroes while conveniently forgetting they faults, while doing the exact opposite for those we judge to be historical villains.

You can here the NPR story here [Real audio required]. The renaming bill died in the state Senate yesterday.

Posted on March 05, 2002 to