Why no one, let alone a U.S. state, should celebrate Confederate Memorial Day

Let’s talk about the “heritage” that comes with the Confederacy. A failed, four-year attempt at establishing a nation based on the enslavement of black people. The succession documents and speeches of the leaders are very clear that slavery is the heart of the issue. Mississippi said: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.” (source)

If you have been fooled into believing that the Confederacy was about “state’s rights” you are not only historically illiterate, you also don’t understand state’s rights. The “state’s rights” that were at stake related slavery. And even then, it was a fear — a fear — not a forgone fact, that slavery would be ended by the federal government. Racism in the North meant that slavery probably would have existed (though not expanded) for sometime still.

The primary complaint of the states that succeeded was that non-slave states were not returning their runaway slaves to them. Those states were not doing it because they had laws that didn’t recognize people as property. Therefore, there was no property to be returned.

If you argue state’s rights was the issue think about this. Hand gun laws, marijuana laws, and umpteen other laws are not universal in the US. The right of states to set their own laws is still in place. So clearly the issue wasn’t a state having their laws trumped by the feds. In fact, the constitution supported slavery. The state’s rights issue concerned if a state was obligated to search for and return escaped slaves to another state. Southern states wanted their stolen property returned (even if it ran off on its own). Northern state’s did’t view people as property. So which state’s right was at stake?

The other state’s rights issue, which likely has a better argument but brought up much less often, was that the federal government was outlawing slavery in new territories and determining which new states would be slave and which would be free. As opposed to allowing the residents of those territories and states to decide if they would be free or slave. I’m no constitutional law scholar, but yes, one could argue that might have been overreach on their part to dictate what the laws would be in those states without consent of the governed. However, the argument among the pro-slavery extremists was that since the Constitution recognized slavery, it didn’t matter what people there voted for, all of the US had to recognize slavery. Hence a constitutional amendment was later necessary.

So let’s not memorialize and celebrate the Confederacy. That four-year failed attempt at establishing a pro-slavery nation. There are so many wonderful things about Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. I’ve lived in those states. I know they have some wonderful pieces of their history that have nothing to do with the Confederacy. Let’s celebrate the total history of those states from their start through now and not just the four year peak of racism.

 

Liberal Americans suddenly amazed Archie Bunker is still alive and voting

As I sat through yet another funeral service for the Death of Progress, I again grew frustrated with my white liberal and progressive friends and neighbors. The majority of whom apparently live in a world of only inner-city hipster and college-campus blue bubbles surrounded by like minded people. Some of whom seem to have literally thought that Archie Bunkers only lived in reruns, museum pictures, and occasional internet posts. They suddenly found out there are many Archie Bunkers who are alive, well, and voting. You need to get out of your bubbles more!

Now certainly, some of it has to do with age. I’ll automatically forgive anyone under 30 who doesn’t know that Archie Bunkers exist (Here is link for you to explain this post. Read it before continuing.) If you are over 30, you probably met Archie, you just didn’t know that was his name. And if you are over 45 I can’t imagine that you haven’t met Archie. What blue rock are you living under?

We progressives joke about awkward Thanksgiving Dinners with family yet forget those family members vote. We try to avoid the crazy old guy who works in building maintenance and still believes Obama is “one of those Mussaleems” but forget that he votes. We rally to our social media to post memes and photos about racial injustice in the system and then forget that there are people who make up that system of racial injustice. People who vote. Speaking of social media….remember those family and high school friends you blocked or unfollowed for the “horrible uninformed things” they were posting. They vote.

Who do you think we are fighting against? Racism – in all its forms individual and institutional, intentional and unintentional, informed and uninformed – is not dead. Nor are its siblings, Homophobia, Nationalism, Sexism, and Religious Righteousness. They are all alive and well. They live just outside your blue bubble. Likely a little further out of town or further from campus. A neighborhood you would never be willing to live in. Probably a neighborhood you don’t feel all that comfortable in. The one with the beat up mobile home that has a Confederate flag on the front porch. Or the rural community with lots of tractors and John Deere hats. Or the small town of small houses and small manufacturing trying to hold on to their small piece of the American dream. These are not isolated places. They are literally just a ways away from where you live.

I continue to be amazed at how out of touch so many progressives have become given the advances of the last few years. There is still much much work to be done. There is reason to fear the coming repercussions for our social advancements. But there is as much reason now as there was in 2008 as there was in 1992 or 1976 to rally to the cause. Get off of your social media full of like-minded friends and actually go out and talk to Archie. Get to know him. If you don’t, you will never find a way to change his mind. We have been lulled into laziness by our recent progress. But America is advanced citizenship. You have to work for it.

I’ll end with two thoughts. First, a quote from one of my favorite movies The American President:

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

As we go out there to that fight and advocate let us not get discouraged. As Theodore Parker said and Martin Luther King reminded us, that moral arc of the universe is long and it does bend towards justice. America is not an exception. But the work of bending it is constant. Find your Archie Bunker and start applying pressure to that moral arc. We have four years to bend it.

White Northerners and the Confederate Flag

This screen capture is from a Huffington Post article about the rally held at Ole Miss, two days ago, after the student body called to remove the state flag of Mississippi (far right in the picture). Click here for article.

Capture

Yes, you read that right. A “pro-secessionist” group. They still exist.

Every time the Confederate Flag comes up, I find myself trying to explain to my fellow white people why there is a problem with it. I am a white guy, who was raised in the Deep South. So you might see me as an unlikely anti-flag person. But having moved to “the North” (Most think of it as the Mid-west), I find white people’s ignorance of the issue here, even more troubling than those non-ignorant (but racist) proponents of the flag in the South.

First off, what we call today the “Confederate Flag” for the majority of the war was not the flag of the Confederacy. In fact, it was the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. It later grew in popularity (due to the popularity of that particular unit) and was adopted elsewhere, and only briefly was on the last of several flags of the Confederate States of America. In reality, it hardly ever flew over the South. It’s addition to other flags, such as state flags of Mississippi and Georgia, would not come until much later and was done very intentionally by racists to show that they could still hold power over African Americans. This often delves into an argument about what the Civil War was really over. Let me go ahead and tell you that the only state’s rights at issue were the right to have slaves and the right to have your escaped slaves returned from non-slave states. So don’t say “state’s rights” is different from slavery. If you don’t think the Civil War was about slavery, go read the secession statements of each of the states that joined the Confederacy. Apparently, those guys thought it was about slavery.

Second, the conversation usually then turns to said Northerner telling me the flag is about “white heritage” or “white pride.” Then I explain that they aren’t really making much of a case about not being a racist. Those are the words and phrases popularized by racist organizations (such as those pictured above) decades ago. Who used the flag as a symbol of intimidation and power over people of color. So you fly your flag and you use those words…..I’m going to assume you are a racist, as are many other white people and a lot of people of color. (If you want, instead, we can assume you are really just completely ignorant. Your choice I guess.)

Here is the funny thing about flags. They are social constructs. They have no intrinsic meaning despite the best efforts of flag aficionados. They are symbols that get their meaning from how, when, and where they are used. So no one individual gets to decide what they mean. The masses get to decide. And you have been outvoted.

This is followed by one of two things: a surprising few admit they are racist and out comes a series of expletives and derisive words for people of color and people “like me.” (Which always seems to then somehow resort back to accusations about my patriotism and religious beliefs although I don’t see the correlation.) More often though, it results in them huffing and puffing and scoffing away, which I consider a win. Because somewhere, deep down, they realized, I just might be right. And I realized they may not be a total idiot after all which makes it a win-win.

If you really want to talk about pride or heritage in the context of the Civil War, why would you not take the side of the North? You know, the people who saw a great wrong being done and acted against it. Why would you not fly the battle flag of a Northern unit? There were many highly decorated and courageous ones. Maybe one from your state? Maybe one your ancestors actually fought under?