Prologue: Do not be afraid to engage. Do not stay quiet. There is no such thing as ‘casual’ racism, or ‘casual’ fascism. Your family and friends do not get a pass. The only way this gets rooted out is by publicly calling it out for what it is: bigotry, racism, genocidal advocacy, and putting in its place: back under the rocks it is crawling out from under.
It’s crucial to recognize and openly admit that America has never been ‘not racist’. Racism has always existed here. Its level of prominence has varied over time, but we’ve always been a racist nation. It did not just start 8 years ago when Barack Obama was elected president. His election peeled the repeatedly whitewashed topcoat off the country revealing the seething, stinking, moldy swamp underneath.
Emboldened by years of propagandist “news” bullshit from FOX, Limbaugh, Coulter, Ailes, Murdoch and other idiots, the white, low information populace of the country were presented a high profile, singlular target to profess their hate for and target their grievances at: the black man in the White House. First he wasn’t an American citizen. Then he wasn’t a college educated American citizen. Then he was Muslim, then he was socialist, fascist, terrorist, and liberal, then he was all of the above. BUT OBAMA BUT OBAMA. The very image of the black man in the White House was personified as the reason white peoples’ lives sucked. Why rural (white) America is dying, why coal jobs are vanishing, why Black Lives Matter came to be, why ‘illegals’ take our jobs. People of color will replace white people as the largest demographic in the country. Our (white) dominance and significance in American culture and history is rightfully eroding at an accelerating pace, and it is scaring white people to the point of violent actions like we saw in Charlottesville last weekend in an attempt to “reclaim” what they feel is theirs: The United States.
America is racist. And it goes back to the very founding of our country. The only way to deal with it is to name and shame it back under the rocks it crawls out from under.
As we see more and more cities removing monuments to the Confederacy, as Baltimore did overnight last night, the following sentences are being offered as an argument against removal of Confederate iconography:
“The Civil War was not about slavery! It was about states’ rights!”
Yes, it was about States’ rights to enslave black people. Use the Confederacy’s own words against them. From The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States:
A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
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.
Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
THE SECESSION ORDINANCE.
AN ORDINANCE TO REPEAL THE RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, AND TO RESUME ALL THE RIGHTS AND POWERS GRANTED UNDER SAID CONSTITUTION.
The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican party, who have been called by their own votes to administer the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States. We know their treachery; we know the shallow pretenses under which they daily disregard its plainest obligations. If we submit to them it will be our fault and not theirs. The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquillity.
Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President, Confederate States of America
From his Cornerstone Speech delivered in Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861:
Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
Seceding states were sometimes careful to word their justifications for treason to seem like the North was violating the Constitution for not returning Southern states’ property that escaped but when you peel back that transparent cover-up, you realize the “property” is escaped slaves fleeing to the North. The South’s argument was Northern States were constitutionally bound to return them to their owners and as time passed more and more Northern states refused to do so, ultimately electing a government that also refused to extradite escaped slaves. The South viewed this behavior as Northern Oppression and threatening to their very shitty way of life. And that is completely true. So, they seceded to preserve their “States’ right” to continue enslaving black people.
It does not matter if individuals on the Confederate side abhorred slavery, they tacitly fought for and defended their government, which endorsed slavery as a inalienable right, an inextricable component of the economy, and an express reason for secession from the Union.
It was about slavery.