Friday, October 22, 2010

What We Learned In School

From Virginia's History,  a 1957 4th-grade textbook published by Scribner's:
Northern and Southern people did not think alike about slavery. The Northern people did not need much help to work their small farms. The planters in Virginia and in the South needed many men to work for them. They had slaves to do their work.
By this time many people knew that slavery was wrong. But the planters did not know how they could free their slaves and keep their plantations going. Some people in the North said that the Southern people had to free their slaves no matter what happened to their plantations. The South said that the North had no right to tell them what to do. They believed that each state had the right to decide how the people were to live in that state. So the North and the South quarreled about the rights that each state had.
People in the South grew more and more angry with the North. The people of all the states had certain rights under the United States Constitution, but the people in the South believed that their rights were being taken from them. South Carolina and some other states decided the only way to keep their rights was to leave the United States and start a new nation. This new nation was called the Confederate States of America.
Virginians loved the United States and did not want to leave it. But Virginians wanted people in every state to have their rights.
Some of the Negro servants left the plantations because they heard that President Lincoln was going to set them free. But most of the Negroes stayed on the plantations and went on with their work. Some of them risked their lives to protect the white people they loved.
In 2010, little has changed about the inherent dynamic: The rights and needs of property and property owners trump not only human rights, but simple human decency. Property rights were a defining factor of the American Revolution, and the debate between property rights has been the subject of constitutional debate in this country for more than 200 years. That this remains so is not exactly to our credit; it's not even a question in European democracies. They drew inspiration from the mighty cannonade of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man; in comparison, the shot heard round the world was a popgun burst. (Even so, when it came to slavery and colonialism, France's record is no more a source of pride than it would be for any other western power.)

The above five paragraphs are fraught with the rhetorical contortions that worked their ways into the thought processes of southern white children: 
  • the elevation of property rights over human rights. (Most notably, "The planters in Virginia and in the South needed many men to work for them. They had slaves to do their work." One might add the words "for them" to the last sentence) 
  • the distinction made between "Southern people" and "slaves"
  • the elevation of the abstraction of states' right over the obscene reality of slavery
  • the position that rights were something for and to be determined by the white people of Virginia, with the no doubt differing views of the slaves not a legitimate part of the equation
  • the creation of a new sovereign "nation" on constitutional grounds, thus establishing the illusion that the Civil War was fought between two countries instead of within one
  • the transformation of "slaves" to "servants"
  • the steadfast refusal to acknowledge the "white people" in question as "white masters"
  • promulgation of the utter fantasy that "most Negroes" remained on plantations out of love for their masters -- which is like saying that most Cambodians went willingly to the Killing Fields out of love for the Khmer Rouge.
Think of this blather, along with an almost comically misplaced sense of victimization, being drilled into millions of little white heads as part of their way of life, and you can understand how today's southern reactionaries have become so skilled at deploying coded language to mask the vileness that underlies their definition of Americanism...

A lot of lies to pack into five paragraphs written for 9-year olds, but that didn't deter the authors of Virginia's History one bit. Nor, evidently, did the task daunt this "fairly respected writer," creator of such masterworks as Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty and Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments...


Roy said...

First Texas, now Virginia. Who's next?

K. said...

It's like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You're next!

tnlib said...

Who's next? KY, TN, SC, GA, WVA, KS and OK to name a few and they're not all in the South.

Speaking code. Ah yes, only southerners know it and recognize it. That's why those damn yankees at those big elitist northern newspapers keep saying that anti-Obamanism isn't based on race. You have to wonder where their heads are located.

tnlib said...

Just saw this at Crooks and Liars.

K. said...

Like I say, whatever the right accuses Democrats of is usually something they are doing themselves. In this case, voter fraud.

The northeast left is worthless. Try to explain reality and they pat you on the head write more articles about teabaggery and economic populism. Some of them actually believe that a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, for example, would magically turn all of these angry whites into socialists.

I didn't know that Eugene Robinson had won a Pulitzer. The New Black Panthers probably stuffed the ballot box for him.

RealityZone said...

Some still watch the movie Roots in reverse.
They are waiting for Kunta Kinte to return.
Racism is the one dirty little secret in America that no one likes to talk about.
Rewriting history has always been a favorite past time for the oppressors of social justice.

RealityZone said...

Here is a different school of thought.