Claiming Racism, Chairman Cancels Local Civil War Re-Enactment

American flag flying in breeze.Commentary

American flag flying in breeze.

About two years ago, in 2017, Confederate Civil War monuments were being taken down left and right as groups such as “Smash White Supremacy Chicago” declared these monuments to be racist and full of white supremacy. Now, in 2019, social justice warriors no longer care about the monuments. Instead, they care about the Civil War reenactments that teach visitors about the military history of that time as well as what life was like in that era.

Unfortunately, these events also display Confederate flags “and a number of other things” which make people uncomfortable and gives a reason for stopping Civil War re-enactments from happening.

Civil War Days

For almost 30 years the Lakewood Forest Preserve has been holding a “Civil War Days” where families can enjoy activities and learn about the Civil War for $10 a person. Unfortunately, this annual activity might be the last one hosted by the Lake County Forest Preserves since the districts President Angelo Kyle has said that he would prefer it if the forest board focused on more critical issues like climate change and unilaterally decided that there would be no more re-enactments after this.

“There were a considerable number of Confederate flags and a number of other things I took into consideration,” [1] Kyle, who is African American, said when asked why he wasn’t allowing this to continue happening.

In a board meeting, Kyle said that history is written by victors and that re-enactments only show one side. “Our ancestors told us what really happened. Did you know that black soldiers were put on the front line in the North and Southern front lines so they would be killed first?” he asked fellow board members. “There should be some consideration taken for that,” Kyle added.

Many board members were shocked by his announcement and the former president of the forest preserves, Ann Maine, questioned his decision. “I’m deeply disappointed in the process and lack of transparency,” she said. “I’m deeply troubled by this and concerned about the precedent it sets. Can events and programs be canceled without input?”

Kyle said that he had followed proper procedures to cancel the event but because they were unprepared, he would allow, what he hoped to be, the last Civil War re-enactment to happen.

Activist and North Chicago resident Ralph Peterson Jr. spoke out in support of the cancellation of the event. “This has nothing we want, nor should celebrate, nor re-enact,” Peterson said. “When southern states are being made to tear down every statute representing this racist, murdering chapter of our history, I can’t believe here in Lake County our own forest preserve is preserving and celebrating it every year, and with our tax dollars.”

Political Matter

Unfortunately, this is more about politics than it is about social justice warriors. Although black soldiers were in the war, they were kept in the background because they provided manual labor, not put out in front. Kyle also seems to have a history of trying to please his constituents, boasting more about the expansion of spaces for community events and private rentals than about what he planned to do to preserve natural spaces. [2]

Even though the board was taken aback by Kyle’s decision to stop having Civil War re-enactments, they didn’t put up much of a fight, not wanting to be marked as a “racist.”


Notes:

  1. ^Abderholden, Frank. “Lake County Forest Preserves chair calls for end to Civil War Days; resident says, ‘This has nothing we want, nor should celebrate, nor re-enact’.” Lake County News-Sun, 12 June 2019, www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-lns-lake-county-civil-war-days-st-0612-story.html. (go back↩)
  2. ^New leadership on Lake County Forest Preserve Board – General News – News | Lake County Forest Preserves.” 17 June 2019, www.lcfpd.org/new-leadership-on-lake-county-forest-preserve-board. (go back↩)

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