Monday, April 19, 2010

The Race Is On And It Looks Like Heartache

Lately I've engaged some teabaggers in "debates" about race. By now, we've all read Virginia Republican Governor Robert McDonnell's contention that he didn't mention slavery in his recent proclamation because
there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.
Most significant for which Virginia? At the onset of the Civil War, half of Virginia's population was African-American. (I've taken the liberty of counting each slave as a full person and not the 3/5's prescribed by the Constitution.) Today, the state is 20% African-American.

This neatly summarizes the contemporary conservative attitude toward race: It's so unimportant that it doesn't even bear mentioning as a factor in the Civil War.

They've adopted a typically sneaky tactic that involves code words, white resentment, and turning the question back against anyone who calls them on it. Thus, when they say that President Obama is arrogant, they mean arrogant. When they say that the son of single mother who grew up in straitened circumstances is spoiled, they mean spoiled. (What George Bush was, they don't say.) Anyone who says that "arrogant" is a code word for uppity or that "spoiled" signifies a black man who has risen above the station that God meant for him is an obsessed liberal guilty of living in the past and of being the real race baiter.

When it comes to the nastier elements of the picture, well, they didn't happen. A 50-second crowd level videotape proves that no one called John Lewis the N-word. If he says that someone did, the septuagenarian who suffered a merciless public beating as a Civil Rights activist is a liar who apparently doesn't know the N-word when he hears it. And if anyone did say it, that person was a liberal plant who wants to unfairly malign teabaggers as racists.

It would take a field sociologist to prove this point, but I suspect that when the 'baggers refer to liberals, they mean white liberals. At some level, I doubt that they believe African-Americans capable of political thought beyond radical, misplaced resentment. Which, of course, describes where the 'baggers come from, except that the resentment is reactionary. I've said this before of the right: Whatever opprobrium they heap on others is exactly what they are guilty of themselves.

Thus, anyone who raises the topic of race in debate is guilty of playing the race card, except that the card has already been played by the right -- just as it has been doing since first laying it on the table during the constitutional debates over 220 years ago. At least back then the reactionary right had the courage of its convictions. Today, it's merely craven and duplicitous...

Frank Rich offers his take here. Among the many responses was this stunningly myopic comment:
There are citizens in the South who celebrate the courage and independence of their forebearers [sic] in waging war to uphold the self-determination of the sovereign states. Some outside the South, like Mr. Rich, impute base motives to those soldiers -- which were sometimes present and sometimes not.

Likewise, within the civil rights movement of the 1960's there were citizens who marched and struggled for the self-determination and independence that comes from voting rights and equal access to public commodities. Some of those citizens also had hate-filled and base motives for purusing [sic] their own version of the new racial order.

Many Southerners are proud of their great-grandfathers and relatives who gave their last full measure of devotion for the cause of self-determination, and we celebrate that character on Confederate Memorial Day. If you wish to rejoice with us, you are welcome -- if not, you are entitled to your aloofness.

We do not disparage your own celebrations of family and individual virtue by calling your attention to the evil which attended the social movements of which you are proud. It is a common courtesy, that if you cannot celebrate with someone who rejoices in kith and kin, that you remain silent.

Slavery no longer exists in America. There is no "movement to remove it from the history books" as Mr. Rich seems to suggest. If you wish to wallow in the recitation of its misery, you certainly have that right. But to play the part of a moral elite, who knows better than the common man what is the the significance of our common history and the human character of the Southern soldier, is an affront.
I pray that your own family history is never subjected to such unnecessary scorn.

Assuming that this is serious and not a belated April Fools' prank, there's apparently no need to study the causes of the Civil War because they are no longer relevant and to do so might offend someone's sense of family history. Moreover, the basely motivated Civil Rights Movement headed by Martin Luther King was morally no better or different than the glorious Confederacy led by Jefferson Davis (work out that one out, if you can), and both were about free access to public facilities. The Movement of John Lewis was as hate-filled as the opposition of Bull Connor. And the writer even had the gall to quote the Gettysburg Address in support of his position!

I would really like to hear what he supposes the hate-filled and basely motivated "new racial order" to have been. Whatever it was or is, we're meant to live in terror of it, I have no doubt...

These notes on the 2010 Tulane Engineering Forum include an amazing aerial photo of a breached levee (thanks, Editilla)...

This is cool: A rare 1913 silent film about Abraham Lincoln discovered in a New Hampshire barn (thanks, Foxessa)...

Now you know the answer to this question: What material is used to restore books and fly zeppelins?...

Sometimes, the world is a heartbreaking, sad place. The parents who pull this off are heroes, but the ones who don't aren't villains...


Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I'm forwarding your blog link to a Democratic friend who will enjoy your take on our political world.

Roy said...

The rift in our national unity caused by the Confederacy never healed. For a while it went underground, but in the last 20 years it's been opening up again, and now the chasm gapes. These people still honestly believe that their ancestors did nothing wrong, and were in fact heroes on the scale of the national Founding Fathers. That's not myopia; that's willful blindness.

Foxessa said...

Centuries of justification of slavery as culture and as economic engine, both as slave labor and human beings as sale product turned many of the former confederacy deranged. Their descendants never recovered from it.

Among this sort it is religious dogma that 'the colored' are inferior, perhaps not human beings at all, for that matter, and this inferiority is decreed by god.

Derangement all around.

Love, C.

Sylvia K said...

Oh, don't even get me started on the subject or I'll be frothing at the mouth in no time! Needless to say I agree totally with you and what your other commenters have written. Derangement all around indeed!!! Have a great week, K!


K. said...

LF: Thanks! I to hearing from him or her!

Roy: Agreed. I don't know how a group can claim primacy for states' rights and then turn around and say they aren't being racist.

Foxessa: Yes they did recover from it it's all in the past it wasn't that bad anyway look at everything we've done for them if they didn't recover from it it's their own fault and look at everything we've done for them. This attitude began during Reconstruction, when the prevailing Northern attitude became "if they won't defend themselves, maybe they don't deserve freedom."

S: I know what you mean. Half the time, I think these people actually mean it when they say they don't care about race. Which makes it all the more pathetic: In this country, it's always about race, whether you know it or not.

Renegade Eye said...

The Civil War was the second American revolution. It was the victory of then progressive northern industrialism, over the feudal slave economy. Foxessa could point out that is not a perfect statement, but more true than not.

Race exclusive slavery came with capitalism. Even in the US, before the Bacon Rebellion around 1680, slavery was based on being indentured, not race.

If you support the Confederacy in any manner, you're for slavery. Nothing else matters.

K. said...

Ren: One reason, not the only reason, for the failure of Reconstruction was that as the war receded in the North's rear view mirror, it became more interested in industrialism and finance than in consolidating its victory.

The gathering labor movement may even have caused northern industrialists to sympathize with a legal system that stripped workers of basic rights. (For example, freed men in the post-Reconstruction South, were not allowed to quit their jobs.)

nursemyra said...

How exciting to find a rare silent film in your attic. If I had an attic I'd be up there now searching for treasures too

tnlib said...

True Story:

Looking out my cousin's back window at about 4:00 pm @ 110 degrees.

My Cousin: "That damn Lestah. He's supposed ta be heah afore sunup. Why, you can see it a cummin' up over the hill thar afore he even sets foot on the fahm. Why, I giv 'em 15 minutes at noon to et and rest up sum afore goin' back to plowin'. Damn, he's tha laziest no good niggah I ever did see. Now, don't go takin' that as racism - I don't have a racist bone in my body.

Well, I bettah be gettin' on. The Missus wants to get to the church a little early tonite. Sum visitin' preacher going to talk to us about brotherly love. Hmph. Sounds suspect to me."
South Georgia, Summer - 2008

ZenYenta said...

You mean The War of Northern Aggression, right? The extreme right has its PC rules, too. In addition to the rule that mentioning that a white guy called a black man a n***** is race baiting there's the rule about what we call the Civil War. Used to be War Between the States was all right. Maybe because that is exactly a description of a civil war that's non-PC now.

I imagine there was a certain amount of what you could call hate on the part of civil rights activists. Not everyone could be MLK, after all. Hate for the lynchings, hate for Jim Crow, hate for being forced to step into the street to make room on the sidewalk for any white that passed by and pretend to like it. There might have been some hate, but it would have been well justified.

K. said...

NM: Isn't that a great story? Read about the discovery of The Passion of Joan of Arc here. Steve Erickson wrote a fine fictional account of this in his fine novel Zeroville.

tnlib: I'm not prejudiced, but...

ZY: So that's what the new racial order was all about! Imagine the nerve of not wanting to be lynched. Some people.

Barry and Barbara Knister said...

"Their own version of the new racial order." Yes, their own version, so much at odds with the writer's version of the racial order, his old version being identical to his new version.