Recent events have set off a wave of anti-Confederate iconoclasm that has been sweeping the South, encouraging people to relinquish symbols of the past and reconsider their ‘heritage’ of treason and racism. In the spirit of moving forward instead of clinging to what once was, the Riveria Beach City Council has voted to rename “Old Dixie Highway” to the “President Barack Obama Highway.”
“Dixie” was a common nickname for the region in South which would eventually secede from the Union and fight the Civil War over the right to own slaves. Thus, the name “Old Dixie” is about as blatant an appeal to the old order of white supremacy as one could get; the highway itself used to be the dividing border between black and white neighborhoods during the segregation era. “You have the chance to right the wrong and make a new chapter” said one woman on name change proposal.
Reactions have been mixed, to say the least, and depending on who you ask. “There might soon be a place where Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. meet — and it won’t be just in the hearts of Americans who revere both men” gushed the Palm Beach Post. “I think that the name should stay Old Dixie cause that’s a landmark, it’s history. It was there when we came, it has been here for years and I think we should leave it there” remarked one woman who chose to remain unidentified.
Despite the above ignorance, this is truly a progressive step forward for Riviera County. America needs to be looking forward, not back. What’s done is done, and we still have yet to heal the racial wounds from that era. Renaming the highway that once literally divided black and white neighborhoods after our nation’s first black President and one of the most accomplished Presidents in our nation’s history is a very fitting way to make a positive change.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.