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Southern Ramblings and Rumblings

June 28, 2015

Random, rambling thoughts in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

Will the walls come tumbling down…finally?

I guess we have to specify which of dozens of walls. No doubt some will crumble, others will be breached but still standing, others will survive apparently untouched…

In the 1964 elections the white South abruptly defected to the Republican Party because the democratic candidate, Lyndon Johnson signed a rather modest Civil Rights bill into law. Shortly after the election I heard a woman active in Bay Area Friends of SNCC asked bob Moses what he thought the “emergence of a two-party system in the South meant” for the future. Moses replied he dint’ think there was a two-party system emerging. The election just “shows the [white] South would rather vote along racial lines than party lines,” that maintaining racial barriers trumps any other loyalty. That much was obvious from the recent election. He was right, right from the start….

Now the Southern Nostalgia Industry stands intellectually and morally bankrupt, unable to hide behind the fig leaves of “heritage” and “legacy.” We have a right to ask any white Southerner who uses the words “legacy” or “heritage”: what exactly is the content of the legacy or heritage you cherish and celebrate? When you eliminate nostalgia for slave society, the Confederate cause, and an ongoing commitment to White Supremacy, what is left to celebrate? I want to know what’s left. Tell me. I’m willing to listen but right now all I can imagine is food and drink recipes—mint julep and various ways to cure and cook pork….

Will commitment to the Southern Strategy hurt the GOP? There is no more denying this is all about racism and White Supremacy. The mask has fallen, no matter how much Fox news, Rick Perry, or president McConnell of the College of Charleston may want to pretend otherwise. The denial has finally broken down.  “If you have to lie to make your point then you don’t have a point,” a wise man or woman once said. They’ve got nothing but lies lieft.

The local college president spoke out against changing street names and taking down statues to KKK men and Confederate leaders, saying it was an attempt to “rewrite” or “erase history.” But was de-Nazification in Germany an attempt to pretend it didn’t happen? Clearly not. Germans don’t pretend the Nazi Era didn’t happen. They just don’t celebrate as their “legacy” and “German heritage.”

As a Westerner, not a Southerner, I don’t want to sound self-righteous.  Plenty of racism and White Supremacy scattered around the whole USA.. Even many anti-slavery whites objected to slavery as unfair competition to free labor but had no sympathy for black people as people.  There were the horrible Draft Riots of 1863 involving lynching in NYC and the burning of a black orphanage. At its inception the State of Oregon banned both slavery and black people from entry. Reconstruction ultimately failed because Northerners were racist, too.  I recently learned that here on the Western Slope of Colorado there were “sundown” signs and ordinances in towns like Montrose and Delta warning any black people to be out of town before nightfall.  This continued through the 1950s at least, I am told.

That said, you would be hard pressed to find a defeated side in a major civil war treated as gently and leniently as the defeated Conferees were. There were not treason trials. All that was demanded of them was promise not to rise up in armed treason against the USA again. And their full citizenship rights were restored. Everyone from textbooks, Hollywood, television to Ken Burns had whitewashed reality—literally whitewashed it– to coddle  the white Southerners’ tender sensibilities and indulge their illusions. Isn’t it time for that to stop?

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