U.S. Sen. John Cornyn expressed resistance to the idea of changing the name of Fort Hood, a massive Texas military base named after a Confederate military leader, as calls mount nationwide to remove monuments and rename bases memorializing Confederate leaders.
“There's no question that America was an imperfect union when we were founded, we obviously betrayed our ideals by treating African Americans as less than fully human,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “And we've been paying for that original sin ever since then, through the Civil War, through the civil rights struggles in the '60s.
“And I believe that we've made tremendous progress, but I don't think we obviously are where we need to be.
“One of those most important things about our history is that we learn from it,” he added. “You can't learn from our history if you try to erase it, because it's hard to see where this leads. Now I could see efforts at the state and local levels to move, let's say, move a monument to a state capitol to a history museum or the like, but I'm just not sure where, where this leads. And to me, one of the most import things about history is what we learn from it and how how we learn to not repeat our mistakes.”
Asked why it was important to honor a defeated Confederate general like John Bell Hood by having his name on an Army base, Cornyn demurred.
“To my knowledge, we’re not honoring him,” he said, adding the naming was done in the 1940s and that the U.S. military has proved to be “one of the best examples of racial integration of any institution in America.”
Two Democrats — state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and Air Force veteran MJ Hegar of Round Rock — are competing in a runoff to take on Cornyn in the November election.
Hegar said “most of us know there’s a big difference between teaching about something from our history and celebrating it.”
“It is telling that as Texans of all races across the state, including those in uniform, push for justice and an end to systemic racism, Sen. Cornyn is defending Confederate generals and denying systemic racism exists,” she said in a written statement.
Hegar spokesman Jake Lewis added that the candidate supports a process to rename Fort Hood.
A spokesman for West didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Texas’ other senator — Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican — also didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
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