Thank you Sheria Reid my friend for sharing.
The following was written by my friend Patrick Barrett. I have nothing to add to it except to say that it should be widely read. If you know people who insist that the confederate flag flying over state buildings is an appropriate display of southern heritage, tie them to a chair and read this out loud to them. If you know people who insist that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, tie them to a chair etc.
Patrick Barrett’s words begin here:
This is long and I don’t expect very many people to read it. No worries. I’m putting it out here anyway.
I’m eligible to join both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, as well as the Sons of the American Revolution. I’ve never joined any of these organizations, nor do I intend to, but when I was in my early thirties I did make inquiries about joining the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I like history and heritage as much as anybody, and I thought I might join all three.
Well, I received a packet of information, including newsletters, from the SCV, and I was frankly appalled. It seemed to be much less about history than about promoting what we would now call Tea Party ideology, although that was before the Tea Party came to be. The experience was so off-putting that it soured me on the idea of joining ANY of those lineage societies. Sometimes I still toy with the idea of joining the First Families of Old Monmouth County, the Descendants of Early Quakers, and similar lineage societies, but I’m turned off to the idea of joining any of the martial ones.
The reason I mention this is that we often hear that the Confederate flag is about “heritage, not hate.” But I rarely find that to be the case. Most of its supporters are not well-informed about either the history of the Confederacy or their own ancestors’ involvement with it, if any, and even the relatively well-informed ones, who know which ancestor served in the Confederate military, in which unit, and in which battles, seem to accept and promote a pseudo-history which patently misrepresents both the Confederacy and, in most cases, their own ancestors. Most of them have some axe to grind that has little or nothing to do with an awareness of history.
Some facts about the Confederacy:
1. The Confederacy was founded for the express purpose of preserving slavery, and in particular, the openly racist institution of African-American slavery. All of the bullshit we hear hear from neo-Confederates about tariffs, states’s rights, defending one’s home from invaders, etc., is just that: bullshit. Confederate leaders were quite frank, and even proud, about their motivation. The preservation of African-American slavery was what it was all about.
2. Nor was “defending our homes” the motivation. The Confederates did not just want to be left alone to practice their “peculiar institution.” They were very open about their plans to expand both the territory of the Confederacy and the institution of slavery. The Confederacy was not a defensive regime, but an aggressive one, and to this day there are people who are very proud that South Carolinians fired the first shots in the war, though they seem to have forgotten the Confederacy’s imperialist plans.
3. There was no state in which the majority of the population favored secession and the preservation of slavery. In fact, there were two states — South Carolina and Mississippi — where the majority of the population WERE slaves.
4. Even if we only count free, white, male voters, there were most likely only four states in which the majority favored secession: South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. In general, secession was more popular in states and counties that (a) had the largest populations of slaves and (b) had the highest percentages of slave-holding white families. Secession was pushed through by the powerful, slaveholding families for their own (supposed) benefit and at the expense of the majority of the white population. That the wealthy and powerful often wield government for their own purposes without any concern for the effect on the general population is something almost everybody knows. It was precisely that way in the Confederacy.
5. Confederate partisans who stood to lose much and gain nothing from secession were rarely motivated by ideas of “defending their homeland.” In fact, poor whites whose more natural alliance might have been with the slaves rather than with the wealthy families who oppressed both the slaves and poor whites (though not, obviously, in equal degrees) were, in effect, conned into working against their own interests. (This is a strategy that has worked well for the rich and powerful, and poor and middle-class whites who vote enthusiastically against their own interests now make up most of the Republican Party’s base.) The case made to persuade them to support the cause of the slaveholders was:
a. The Bible clearly and unambiguously teaches that black people are to be slaves to white people. It might be surprising to many people today to hear that the Bible teaches that, and in fact the Bible doesn’t teach it, but it goes to show you how easy it is to find in the Bible whatever one is looking for, even if it isn’t there. When I was a boy in the 1960s I *still* heard with some regularity that the Bible teaches the subjugation of Africans by white people. I didn’t hear it from members of my family, but white people who believed that weren’t hard to find even then — and probably still aren’t, if you know where to look. (And by the way, it’s worth noting that most of the people in our own time who claim to be promoting biblical teachings about marriage, gay people, transgender people, abortion, and other “social” issues are also saying things that are quite obviously not in the Bible.)
b. African-American slavery elevates even the poorest white man. It was not just that most of the really shitty jobs were given to slaves, but that even the poorest, hardest-working white man in the South, who was doing essentially the same work as a slave, could take pride in the fact that at least he wasn’t a black man or a slave. That this is a piss-poor kind of “elevation” and the most pitiful kind of “pride” hardly needs saying, but people fall for this kind of shit all the time. It’s similar to the way some white people feel their position is threatened by immigrants, and the way some heterosexuals feel threatened by the idea of LGBT people having the same rights they have. People who have the least to be proud of still like to feel they’re better than SOMEBODY.
c. Emancipation would threaten the jobs of free white workers. That is, freeing the slaves would mean lots of free black workers flooding the market and competing with white workers for jobs. This fear might have made some sense among Northern workers who were apprehensive about masses of freed slaves moving North, but it made no sense at all in the South. In the South, slaves were ALREADY competing (however unwillingly) with white workers for jobs, and were “winning.” Why would a slaveholder hire a free, white worker or artisan when he had unfree workers and artisans living on his own property who had no civil rights and could be forced to work for the bare minimum in food, clothing, and housing? In fact, slavery worsened the economic prospects of free workers. But there’s a sucker born every minute.
The Confederacy was all about slavery. Period. Secession was intended to preserve the wealth and prerogatives of the wealthiest citizens of the South. It never did, and was never even intended to, benefit the majority of the Southern population or even the majority of the free, white population. Your Confederate ancestor may have been a brave soldier, but he was not fighting to defend his home. There’s a good chance he didn’t want to be in Confederate service at all, but was either drafted or — as my great-grandfather was — shanghaied into service. There’s a good chance, especially if your Southern ancestors were poor whites who didn’t own slaves, that they were either apathetic about secession or had Unionist sympathies. There’s a good chance that your Southern ancestors were intimidated and terrorized, as some of mine were, by the Confederate Home Guard. And however your Confederate ancestors really felt about the Confederacy, there’s no getting around the fact that the whole point of the Confederacy was to keep 13% of the population of the United States, and almost 40% of the population of the South, in the brutal and inhuman conditions of chattel slavery.
Don’t tell me how “good” your ancestors were to their slaves. Some slaveholders did take good care of their “property,” but nothing can make the condition of chattel slavery a humane institution.
So that’s the heritage represented by the Confederate flag. If you love history and heritage, I encourage you to study that history and keep it alive. But don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s something it’s not. Don’t lie to yourself and others about what the heritage of the South really is. (I haven’t even mentioned Jim Crow, segregationism, and lynching.) Know your heritage and preserve it, and if you can find something to be proud of, then be proud of it. But to be genuinely proud of the Confederacy and its values is beneath the dignity of any decent person.
If you really know your heritage, you should know that some traditions are better dead than alive, and that there are some things nobody with a heart of flesh should be proud of.