Heritage or Hate: When using race for political gain is enough!

Posted: April 21, 2010 by mdwhitlock in Uncategorized

The proclamation

April has officially been designated as Confederate History month in the state of Virginia by its governor, Bob McDonnell. A proclamation that began under former Virginia governor, George Allen; Bob McDonnell reinstated Confederate History month in time to mark the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary to the start of the American Civil War.[i]

Not without controversy, this decision by governor McDonnell has been used as an opportunity by liberal opponents to racially charge McDonnell with adhering to a legacy of bigotry and hatred. As seen in the recent months, many liberal special-interest groups and democrat politicians have injected racism as a deterrent towards the GOP’s efforts to establish a minority base. There is little dispute that black racial allegiance to a party largely favors Democrats, but this scare tactic has been implemented by many within the liberal circle as an effort to off-set growing concerns of the poor policy decisions made by the liberal-controlled congress in recent years. 

How post modern history works

Post modern history [you know the history that focuses on gender and race][ii] has tainted the history of the American Civil War, and in particular; disqualified an unbiased insight of the cause for the North, and the cause for the South. Although the argument against McDonnell’s proclamation can and should be made about honoring all participants of the civil war [considering over sixty percent of the war had been fought in Virginia];[iii] it is still time to evaluate both North and South from a non-political point of view.

To those who were taught from the post modern perspective; it should be made clear that not all supporters of the confederacy were ‘whip-yielding’ bigots, and it should be understood that not all union supporters believed dissolving an evil institution of slavery. Post modern history neglects to mention confederate generals, Robert Lee and Thomas Jackson’s opposition towards slavery, and that the two men’s sole purpose for defending the confederacy was based on loyalty to Virginia.[iv] Post modern history neglects to mention that Lee urged Jefferson Davis to arm slaves in helping defend the confederacy, [v]or that Thomas Jackson educated slaves prior to the war.[vi] Lastly, post modern history neglects the people of color who took up arms for the confederacy against the union.

Holding confederate history accountable

Academically it is flawed to assert the cause of the civil war as being non-slave related. Whether the issue is regarding states’ rights, then the question must be asked: states’ rights for what? Whether the issue is defending the South from northern tyranny, then the question must be asked: what tyrannical proposal(s) did the North make against the South? Some supporters of romancing confederate history have made the assertion that the South intended to remove the institution of slavery regardless of the outcome of the war,[vii] but there is only half truth to this claim. President Jefferson Davis made a decree in the waning stages of the war to only free slaves who fought to defend the confederacy.[viii] Since most slave owners generally did not honor family structures between slaves; one can presume that a slave’s freedom did not guarantee the freedom of that slave’s child or mate. The decree made by Davis did not guarantee that the freed slaves by the confederacy would be granted American rights, or even guarantee the slave to be perceived as a citizen.   

Racial politics or ignorance to history

Governor McDonnell’s proclamation, despite the ad homonyms directed towards him by many within the liberal circle; is not based on racial temperament. As governor McDonnell stated, the issue focuses on economic opportunity, and a non-biased education on the South.[ix] Virginia Delegate Kenneth Cooper, D-Norfolk, stated that governor McDonnell’s proclamation was “offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the civil war and the brutal era that followed.”[x] The statement by Del. Cooper typifies how politicians seek to incite revisionists’ history of the civil war based solely through racial emotion. Nothing in the proclamation suggests any attempts to revise history, or incite offensive and disturbing language. Del. Cooper, like so many others with a similar train of thought; must understand that the American Civil War and the Jim Crow South sought to achieve two completely different goals.

Many who stand in opposition of governor McDonnell’s proclamation have an apparent misunderstanding of the actual war itself, and have mistakenly focused on the symbol of the confederacy (the flag) being used by segregationist in the Jim Crow era. Much like the segregationist who waved the confederate flag in the 1950s and 1960s; those who view the confederacy as an evil empire compared to the likes of NAZI Germany[xi] have little understanding of the history behind the ‘stars and bars.’ If one were to ask an opponent of confederate history month: ‘what he or she sees when that person sees the confederate flag?’ The response to the prior question may be similar to that of Del. Cooper; which for all intensive purposes, show more disdain towards segregationists during the civil rights struggle, then it does towards soldiers fighting to preserve an economic institution.

The same rules apply for all months

Racial politics must be brought to light and condemned as the divisive practice in which, many on the left have bought into over the years. Racial politics teaches a double standard that suggests it is okay to observe group months, such as black history; however, it teaches that observing confederate history is shameful because of its racist lineage. Are both observances not racial to a degree? Which month celebration [black or confederate] seeks to deliberately observe segregating the history books? In the words of liberal journalist, Roland Martin, on condemning the confederate proclamation: “we can’t on one hand justify the honorable actions of the Confederates…and then condemn the Muslim extremists who want to see Americans die a brutal death.”[xii] The argument which Martin makes can and should be made against the following: how is it reasonable to honor a group racially, which is a practice of segregation; yet condemn honoring a group that sought to uphold a form of segregation through slavery? When does the double standard of race end? 

President Obama weighed in on the proclamation by governor McDonnell, and called the omission of slavery “unacceptable.”[xiii] The President made an interesting following statement, which in all fairness shows a grave contradiction:

“This is just a reminder that when we talk about issues like slavery that are so fraught with pain and emotion, that, you know, we’d better do some thinking through how this is going to affect a lot of people.”[xiv]

Now if the President would heed his own warning, then one could take to heart his pragmatic observation to the issue of honoring confederate history. When President Obama declared June as National Gay and Lesbian Pride month; one wonders whether or not the President considered the concerns of those opposed to honoring a sexual lifestyle? After all, what has supporters of homosexuality done for the sake of humanity to deserve such an honor? At least in honoring the confederacy on a state level, it renders only the state to acknowledge the proclamation.

Let us remember slavery in all forms

If one believes that the confederacy should not be honored because it fought to preserve slavery, then one must be willing to condemn the acts of many African tribes that enslaved other tribes in which they conquered. Slavery on the continent of Africa had long been practiced before any blue eyes graced sights on the shores of Ghana.[xv] Should there be no Kwanzaa celebration or any other African observances simply because Africans at one point enslaved each other? Unfortunately slavery at one point had been considered an acceptable practice within many regions of the world. It is unreasonable to suggest that only white southerners should be admonished for a practice that has transcended each culture.   

It should never be taken for granted that the story of the confederacy is stained with the blood of slaves, and that the ultimate goal in which the confederacy sought to achieve was continuing the practice of slavery. Personally the history of the confederacy shows many character flaws, but the confederacy does deserve the opportunity to have an accurate depiction of its part in American history.

In conclusion

In the end it is important to understand history from a non-post modern perspective, and by failing to do so, it only allows such issues as studying the confederacy more in-depth to become tainted. One can agree with the President that all must think before acting; however it is time for many on the left to discontinue using racially sensitive topics as an unwarranted political wedge. No longer should the ignorance of history be made to veil the stains of one party, and then be used to uncover misinformation against the other party. Remember, the confederacy and Jim Crow does have one key element in common: both were led by the democrat party.


[i]McDonnell, Bob. Confederate history month, April 2010, available from, http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/2010/ConfederateHistoryMonth.cfm; Internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[ii] Irvine, Martin.  Post Modernity vs. Post Modern vs. Post Modernism, 2004-2009, available from, http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/pomo.html; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.  

[iii] No author. Civil War 150 Sequential, 2010, available from, http://www.virginiacivilwar.org/press/planning.php; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[iv] The National Park Service, Robert E. Lee Memorial, 2009, available from, http://www.nps.gov/archive/gwmp/arl_hse.html; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[v] No Author, American Civil War, available from, http://americancivilwar.com/colored/colored_troops.html; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[vi] Williams, Richard. The Black Man’s Friend, 1996, available from, http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/BookReviewBlackManFriend2.htm; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[vii] Levinier, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation, 2010, available from, http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/BookReviewBlackManFriend2.htm; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[viii] Ibid, Levinier

[ix] Kumar, Anita. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamation Irks Civil Rights Leaders, 2010, available from, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040604416.html; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[x] Ibid, Kumar

[xi] Martin, Roland. Confederates, Al Qaida are the Same: Terrorist, 2010, available from, http://www.rolandsmartin.com/blog/index.php/2010/04/09/confederates-al-qaida-are-the-same-terrorists/; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[xii] Ibid, Martin

[xiii] Jonnson, Patrick. Confederate History Month Fight: Obama Rebukes Virginia’s Governor, 2010, available from, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0409/Confederate-History-Month-fight-Obama-rebukes-Virginia-governor; internet; accessed 21 April 2010.

[xiv] Ibid, Jonnson

[xv] Wright, Donald. Slavery in Africa, 2000, available from, http://autocww.colorado.edu/~blackmon/E64ContentFiles/AfricanHistory/SlaveryInAfrica.html; internet; 2010.

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Comments
  1. Great post, Coby. If you ever want to cross post anything on my blog, shoot me an email.

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