In a column last April. Josh Brodesky suggests the Confederate memorial which formerly resided in downtown San Antonio should be placed in a museum. In his April 20, 2019 piece, he questions the motivations of supporters of the memorial. Yet, even though his piece is ostensibly about the memorial, he never discusses the motivations of the persons who actually built the memorial. I previously wrote about the two women who conceptualized and designed the Travis Park memorial here. Mr. Brodesky’s opinion piece can be found here.
Mr. Brodesky takes some offense at remarks by Ms. Schimpff and Mr. Brewer. He does not say, but it appears he believes Schimpff and Brewer were insufficiently sensitive to the racism of the Civil War. He is clearly looking closely at the motives of Brewer and Schimpff. He tested Brewer and Schimpff and found them wanting.
But, he does not appear to have similarly tested the motives of Mario Salas in wanting the memorial removed. He simply points to Mr. Salas’ perception that he had found the memorial to be absurd and offensive. Did he ask Mr. Salas if it had ever considered that the builders of the Memorial might have been motivated by a desire to remember lost loved ones? Mr. Brodsky might have challenged Mr. Salas. But, if he did so, there is no indication in his April 20 piece. It appears Mr. Brodesky gave Mr. Salas a pass.
Mr. Brodesky conflated the motivations of the Southern soldiers, and perhaps even those of Brewer and Schimpff with those of the women who built that memorial. Mr. Brodesky’s piece is supposed to discuss the memorial, but it never actually discusses the motives of the builders.
I can sympathize. I did the same thing in my first discrimination lawsuit. Racism is not an easy thing to show in court. It is complicated. I have practiced employment law in San Antonio since 1991, with a couple of breaks for military service. In my first lawsuit, my client, African-American, had been fired by Manager Robert (not his real name). Manager Robert was good friends with two men who worked with my client. They would all visit in Manager Robert’s office, laugh and joke. The two co-workers would emerge from that office and joke about my client as that “pinche negro.” That was as good evidence of racist intent as we get.
But, I made a fundamental mistake in that lawsuit. I conflated the bias of the two co-workers with the possible bias of Manager Robert. There was no indication that Manager Robert had used that racial slur. So, on appeal, the great jurist, John Minor Wisdom, asked me the simple question, “what evidence did I have that Manager Robert had racial bias?” I forget my reply, but the answer was none. Just as Mr. Brodesky has conflated racial intent on the part of Southern soldiers with alleged racial intent of the women who erected the Travis Park memorial.
Did those ladies have racial intent? Some historians say yes, since most white Southerners had racist intent in those days in 1900. But, as Judge Wisdom would ask, what evidence is there of that racist intent? This is a more difficult question since all the women who raised that $4,000 in the late 1890’s had lost loved ones in the war. How can Mr. Salas and Mr. Brodesky conclude those women were motivated only or primarily by racial intent, if they all lost loved ones?
The designer of the memorial was Virginia Montgomery. Her father was lost some years after the war. He just disappeared from public record. But, it is clear he could not hold a job after the war. Jenny’s family – as she was known – was scattered to the four winds after John Montgomery’s death. Jenny Montgomery portrayed African-Americans in everyday life, a rare subject for white artists in the 1920’s era South. How can Mr. Brodesky and Mr. Salas be so certain those women were motivated by Jim Crow? Mr. Brodesky trades in stereotypes, when he should be showing us evidence. Evidence of the builders, not the friends.
But, neither Mr. Brodsky or Mr. Salas are veterans.