Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Is It Really Racism or Is It Something Else?




I still see local news stories about it, usually related to the removal of Confederate statues. There are still people making their snarky posts on Face Book and other social media about it. The absolute ignorance, WILLFUL ignorance, is astounding. But, ignorance has never stopped people from making stupid statements before and this subject is no different.

You have seen it, heard it, experienced it as well, from one side or the other. Here are a couple of examples:

"If you support the use of the Confederate Battle Flag then you are a racist." or "If you want the Confederate Statues to remain then you are a racist."

Sound familiar? There are other variations on this theme, but the bottom line is that if you support either or both then you must want slavery reinstituted or you agreed with slavery in the past AND you are a racist. Knowing nothing else about you the hate-filled individual making those statements thinks that they know you, know your heart, and know what you think. These are the same people who otherwise will chastise you for making assumptions about others or "painting with a broad brush." I have experienced this myself, within my own family and among people who were once friends. People who should know better, but have allowed their politics and their TV to hold sway over them.

Don't bother trying to explain your reasons to them, their minds are made up and nothing you can say will be heard or considered. Depending on whom you care to cite there were anywhere from 4.8% to close to 30% slave owners in the South in 1860. Of course no one ever talks about the slave owners in the North, how Northern businessmen made $Millions from the slave trade, how tribal leaders in Africa traded with white slavers from Europe to rid themselves of those they captured in tribal warfare. The point being that there is so much more people need to learn, must learn, from history, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But again, this requires a mind that is willing to hear, explore, and learn. If someone has shut down and refuses to learn there is little one can do to break through that wall of ignorance.

But for the sake of this article let's go with the high end number and say that 30% of white Southerners owned slaves, as of 1860. That means that %70 did NOT own slaves. In U.S. elections if a candidate were to get 70% of the vote it would be considered a landslide, no, an avalanche. Now the response to this might be, "But, Floyd, those who didn't have slaves wanted to, they just didn't have the money." This takes us back to the "ignorance factor." Those of us who have read more than one book on American history, those of us who do not learn our history from the TV or from a political activist, know that this is simply not true. We have read the personal letters, the newspaper editorials, the speeches made, the dairies, and other documents from Southern men and women decrying slavery and working toward its end. Because your government schools have not taught you this you may not know about it, but the history is quite clear. This information remains out there and is accessible, for those who care to learn. But learning requires effort and it can be scary, as it might require you to alter your firmly held beliefs.

I did Civil War reenacting for twenty-years. I did history programs for many schools, all the way up to and including college level courses. I worked as a volunteer for the National Park Service at many of its Eastern Theater battlefield parks. I have met many intelligent, interesting, and fascinating people. People who share my love of history, American in general and Southern in particular. I have never - NEVER - met anyone during those years, or since, who thought slavery was a good thing, who want to see slavery again, who want to be a slave, or who hate black people. NEVER! No one I know has ever been a member of the KKK or has worn blackface for any reason. Can you point to someone who has? What political party might they be in? 

So, you may ask, "Then why do you want the statues to stay?" or "Why do you support the use of the Confederate Battle Flag." My initial, visceral response is, "Because this is America and we have freedom of speech." We have that right. The people of the South were AMERICANS, just as those in the North were. But it goes even deeper than that. The vast majority of the men who fought, and the women who supported their efforts, were not fighting for slavery. I know, I know, that's not what your TV said, that's not what the activist at the rally said. But the fact remains, and is verifiable, that they saw themselves as fighting for their right to state sovereignty, for freedom, just as their fore-fathers had done in the Revolution. An army in blue was invading their homeland and they sought to repulse it. It is no more complicated than that. Yes, there were those who wanted to preserve slavery. Slave owners, politicians who got money from those slave owners, Northern business interests who benefited from slavery and the cheap resources the South provided them, they certainly were a part of the mix, but they were by no means the majority. It has been my contention all along that rather than tear down, why not "add to." There are plenty of Americans, white, black, and others, who deserve to be remembered and memorialized. Do as the people of the South did after the war. Create your societies, raise the money, and produce your statues and have them placed where they should be. Let's honor and learn from and about all who have contributed to the creation of the United States of America.

I, and others, respect and seek to honor the sacrifices made by those who went to war to protect, as they saw it, their homes and their rights. These Southern men and women believed that the Constitution was the law of the land and that it allowed for the state sovereignty, the "state's rights," that they were seeking to preserve. Those who call us racists might choose not to believe any of this, but again, the truth is out there if you are willing to seek it. You need to educate yourself about the Articles of Confederation and why there was a move to a Republican Constitution. Know more about the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers, and the Ratification Process. What did the states want before they would ratify the new Constitution? Why do we have a Bill of Rights? Was there a movement afoot in the South to end slavery? Were slaves being held in the North? Did Lincoln end slavery in those Northern states? Was/is racism strictly a "Southern thing?" 

There is so much to unwrap, as regards our nation's history leading up to and including the War for Southern Independence. I challenge those of you who think they know all about it to expand your horizons and take the time to learn more. Read about the Morrill Tariff, learn more about Northern ship builders who benefited from the slave trade, read about how the average Southern soldier had no interest in slaves or slavery, but was simply trying to repel an invading army, and so much more. Stop believing the TV, the politicians, the activists, all of whom have a vested interest in keeping you ignorant. I will recommend some worthwhile books for your edification at the end of this article. You may choose to read them or not. But please stop pretending that you know something that you don't. Bad decisions are made with bad information and we have seen far too much of that recently.

Books from my personal library:

"The Slave Trade" by Hugh Thomas

"Myths of American Slavery" by Walter D. Kennedy

"Slavery in the North - Forgetting History and Recovering Memory" by Marc Howard Ross

"Lincoln Unmasked - What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe" by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

"The Real Lincoln - A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War" By Thomas J. DiLorenzo

"The Problem with Lincoln" by Thomas J. DiLOrenzo

"For Cause and Comrades - Why Men Fought In The Civil War" by James M. McPherson

These books, with the exception of Hugh Thomas's book, focus primarily on the War for Southern Independence, however, I also have an extensive selection of books on the Founding. If you seek suggestions on those, and the concept of secession and states rights, I will be happy to provide those, as well.