Last week a teenager in Mississippi was sentenced to two life sentences for murder.

Deryl Dedmon ran over James Craig Anderson with a pick-up truck because he was black. On the surface Dedmon looked like a typical American kid. What we used to call “All American” – white, blue eyed and blond. But clearly something grotesque was beneath the surface.

What do we, as a society, do to instill such hate in the hearts of young men that they kill strangers based on their race? When the sentence was handed down the Judge said “This is not who we are (Mississippi).”

Really, your honor? How could a young man learn to hate his fellow man based on race growing up in Mississippi? Maybe he looked at the state flag. Maybe he saw it in the naming of streets and parks for those who defended slavery.

The death of James Craig Anderson must serve as a wake up call. As a society we are sending messages of intolerance to our children. Messages that distort history and honor those who sought to betray the United States and perpetuate slavery. This is a contributing factor that helps instill hate in the hearts of teenagers.

In 2012 the fact that Memphis, a city when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed, still has a public park named after the founder of the KKK is aberrant.

We disadvantage Memphis youth both black and white by perpetuating the myth that the Confederacy deserves public accolades. It does not.

Would you rather open a new modern business in a city that honored a noted Southern writer like William Faulkner and Blues legend B.B. King or one where the founder of the KKK is celebrated? Acting as if we still live in the 1950’s Dixie comes with a price.

I call on the Mayor and the City Council to not kick the can down the road. We all know this change will occur one day.

Let it be us who make this common sense change.  Replace the names of Jefferson Davis Park, Confederate Park and Nathan Bedford Forrest Park.

Let us recognize our history as a region  – in history books where the complexity of the war can be explained. Not via our public park system.

Find persons to celebrate that are aspirational or noted on both a regional and global stage. Coretta Scott King, Desmond Tutu, William Falkner, John F Kennedy, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, or even ideals like Freedom (park), Liberty (park) or lets honor our Veterans.

Memphis has not properly honored those who have served in the Gulf Wars.

Let the names of our public parks celebrate the best of who we are as a region.

Not only is the Civil War over but also the symbols associated with the Confederacy are toxic.  Toxic for our brand as a city. Toxic for new business. Dressing up our city in symbols of the “Old South” stifles our progress and perpetuates stereotypes that reflect poorly on our values.

After we change our park names lets look at the city seal that is dressed up in symbols of agriculture. It’s time to move the Memphis brand into the 21st century. Let us be the generation of Memphians that put the civil war behind us. Let it be us who stood on the right side of history.