The Confederacy Must Be Defeated Again
The Southwest Political Report
By: Contributing Writer Amoja Sumler
Imagine for a second the American South in all of its beauty. What comes to mind? Lush spooky majestic old growth forests giving way to big beautiful houses set aside on acres of land at a time. You can see the kids playing in over sized yards, the boys are throwing passes to get ready for football season. The girls are playing on the tree swings with fancy dresses that define everything the American imagination expects of the Southern Belle debutante culture.
Admit it, you saw White people in this vision, because the American ideal of the South is a slightly off agrarian White utopia, where honor culture rules the day and the language and life is just a little bit slower.
In many ways you are not wrong. That is Southern Culture.
That is accurate, and historic. It’s just an incomplete history.
We have a habit of doing that here. Telling incomplete stories or grossly distorting heroes. Magnifying some and ignoring others altogether. Take for example the Polish General Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski: though not an American, his contributions to the American Revolution are why there is a Pulaski county, street, or statue in almost every state in America.
This is a non American that helped make America what it is.
In that same spirit the second half of the Continental United States wouldn’t exist except for the anti oppression efforts of General François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture. Without him there is no Arkansas, no Louisiana, no Missouri, no continued path to the Pacific Ocean. Why is he not celebrated certainly in the South at least as much as even Pulaski?
Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey are both American heroes that fought for their own and others freedom. These are both magnificent and proud Southern men. If valor and love of freedom are the Southern masculine ideal why are their statues not erected alongside General Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee? Why are there no Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth monuments? Where are their bronze and marble salutes? In the greater telling of the Southern story how can their history be so insignificant and uncelebrated?
Antebellum Gone With The Wind reminiscent iconography is not the whole of Southern culture. There literally is no South without Black culture. From the beginning, up until the now it has always been this way. The 1860 US census showed that 43% of the Deep South population consisted of Blacks.
Barring some notable exceptions such as the Acadian areas of Louisiana, the food of the South is a story of soul food. Soul food is inextricably tied to Black culture.
The South is famous for three uniquely American styles of music, bluegrass, Blues, and Jazz. Though there are prominent Black musicians in all three styles, Blues and Jazz are undeniably Black inventions. African instruments like the banjo add the distinctive flavor of bluegrass that would render it otherwise unrecognizable. The essence of Blackness runs though all Southern music.
Be it the rural or cosmopolitan South, Black populations are literally unavoidable. From the Appalachians to the Ozark hill country all the way down to the bayous, people of color are everywhere the South is except the American imagination. This is violence, because after a certain point erasure becomes a stand in for the fantasy of eradication.
This is never more apparent than when discussions of the Rebel Flag or its associated stars and bars become the focal point of conversation. Heritage not hate becomes the battle cry. As if Black populations ever defined themselves by this holdover bastion of enslavement. The levels of irony associated with representations of this flag can not be overstated as, to wit, there are still five states that use derivations of it repurposed for their official state flag in spite of the fact that several of those states would not exist if Louverture had not succeeded in his anti oppression battles against imperial France.
It is disingenuous to label the Rebel Flag merely as a symbol of Southern heritage detached from its inescapable connections with the enslavement of humans because Black people are a part of the South and do not as a culture associate with the flags. Those flags don’t represent the South. They represent the Confederacy. The Confederacy represents slavery. Slavery represents Black people as something almost human. Something scary. Something to be beaten and whipped. Something worked to death. Something to be raped. Something to be killed if need be. Most importantly it represented the right for any White person to invoke this power at will.
The dream of every Confederate is the dream of a simpler time. A time when White men were respected, placed on platforms over Blacks, unchallenged by non White immigrants, foreign thinking, or “exotic” languages. The Confederacy represents a nation for people who want the “men to be men”, and the women to be compliant. The Confederacy at its core represents a nation where White Christian women are bearing only White Christian babies.
The problem is this South is as fantastic as the fictional Westeros. There were always other people in the South. The Confederacy can not reconcile these cultures, and so it extinguishes them. There were Native American tribes from the Seminole to the Cherokee Nations. There were Gullahs and Geechees. There where Creoles. Yet somehow that diversity in population that was not represented by diversity in power or justice. Or even pens to write the stories, much less state sanctioned art to celebrate them.
That the American government would (for any reason) spend White lives (Irish or otherwise) to disrupt their ability to have mastership over Black bodies, Black narratives, or Black lives remains the unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Confederate. In the Confederate’s mind, White lives mattered. They were the only lives that mattered. They are still the only ones that matter.
This is why the Confederate has such a great deal of ideological overlap with the Nazi. Except that when Nazis were defeated in Germany the nation acknowledged its great shame. In fact German law forbids the use of of this salute, along with uniforms and flags, unless it is being used for arts or science, research or teaching. Most of the time even Americans don’t feel shamed for the truly inhumane treatment of non Whites. The Confederates are never shamed. They are angry someone even suggests they should feel anything other than pride with the things accomplished by the White men they acknowledge of that era.
Though the combined militaries of the Confederacy were defeated, the ideology was not. It was enshrined. It was revered. It was propagandized as “The Birth of a Nation.” The Confederate mythology fantasizes over a South that never truly existed. The Confederacy swallows the Southern ideal whole and in the American imagination becomes ubiquitous with the South. Democrats such as Woodrow Wilson proudly espoused reverence for the Confederacy’s white supremacist rationales justifying violence upon Black bodies, intellectual and otherwise. The Confederacy fought in the South, was of the South, but was not the South, nor was the love of the confederacy reserved for the South. Confederacy apologists can be found far beyond the Mason Dixon lines. They weep for the loss of an idealized South that never was and will march through American streets wearing Kevlar and AR-15’s ready to kill for this ideal. They are ready for a war. Spoiling for it almost. Ignoring every reverence and respect for the American espoused ideal of liberty. For the sake of the South and the soul of America, the Confederacy must be defeated again. This time for good.
Courtesy of HuffPo