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Heritage of Hate: Dylann Roof, White Supremacy and the Truth About the Confederacy

Discussion in 'News & Current Events' started by Zaac, Jun 22, 2015.

  1. Zaac

    Zaac Well-Known Member

    Jun 12, 2012
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    Heritage of Hate: Dylann Roof, White Supremacy and the Truth About the Confederacy

    In the wake of the terrorist killings in Charleston by admitted white nationalist and neo-Confederate Dylann Roof, many a voice have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse, and in general, from American culture. That flag—actually a battle standard of the army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War—is prized by Roof as a symbol of white supremacy and segregation: both of which his recently discovered manifesto makes clear he supports. Much as the Klan and Neo-Nazi groups have brandished that flag as a symbol of their cause since the 1950s, so too does Roof consider it an appropriate totem for his.

    Naturally, those who defend the flag, whether on statehouse grounds or a bumper sticker, have been quick to condemn any suggestion that the flag is a racist symbol. No matter the use for which it has obviously been put by overt white supremacists, including Roof, they insist that the flag and more broadly the Confederacy itself was not about racism. Indeed, they insist the flag is about “heritage, not hate.” It’s an old canard and one that we who are southerners have heard all of our lives: The Confederacy was about state’s rights, they insist, or tariffs, or taxes, or an intrusive “central government.” That anyone could still believe such things is testament to the broken and utterly pathetic state of American education. Much as some apparently don’t wish to believe Roof was motivated by racism and white supremacy, even as he said so from his own mouth before slaughtering nine people, many white folks appear incapable of trusting the very words uttered at the time of secession by Confederate leaders, all of which make clear that enslavement and white domination were not only the biggest reasons for their breakaway government but indeed the only ones.

    It’s as if we shouldn’t take at face value the words of Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens, even as he explained in clear language that his government’s “foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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 moral condition.” Apparently some would have us ignore his plainly spoken assurance that:

    The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution. African slavery as it exists amongst us is the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away…Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error.

    Far from an afterthought, overshadowed by larger ruminations on taxes or trade policy, Stephens took great pains to distinguish the centrality of racism and slavery in the South, from that of all past governmental systems, including the United States:

    This, our newer Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…Those at the North…assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights, with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just; but their premises being wrong, their whole argument fails.

    And far from a one-off anomaly, Stephens repeated the arguments from his “cornerstone” speech a month later when speaking to the Virginia secession convention. Prior to his address, the Virginia delegates had rejected secession by a 2:1 margin, before finally reversing course and voting to leave the union. Stephens was dispatched so as to buttress that choice and make the case for why voters in the state should ratify their lawmakers’ decision in an upcoming plebiscite. In doing so, Stephens dug deeply into his bag of incendiary and racist rhetoric to affect the outcome. During his speech he articulated the principle of white supremacy as central to the ideology of the Confederate government:

    As a race, the African is inferior to the white man. Subordination to the white man is his normal condition. He is not equal by nature, and cannot be made so by human laws or human institutions. Our system, therefore, so far as regards this inferior race, rests upon this great immutable law of nature. It is founded not upon wrong or injustice, but upon the eternal fitness of things. Hence, its harmonious working for the benefit and advantage of both…The great truth, I repeat, upon which our system rests, is the inferiority of the African. The enemies of our institutions ignore this truth. They set out with the assumption that the races are equal…hence, so much misapplied sympathy for fancied wrongs and sufferings. These wrongs and sufferings exist only in their heated imaginations. There can be no wrong where there is no violation of nature’s laws…It is the fanatics of the North, who are warring against the decrees of God Almighty, in their attempts to make things equal which he made unequal.

    One wonders, exactly how many times does the Vice-President of a Government have to say the same thing regarding his administration’s philosophy (and that of his “nation”), each time without correction or censure from his superiors or governmental colleagues, before we believe him? And when that Vice-President himself insists that other issues like trade tariffs had already been adequately resolved to the satisfaction of the southern states—as he did in his November 14, 1860 address to the Georgia legislature—who but a liar or a fool can continue to insist that it was matters such as this that animated the Confederate cause?

    Although only five states ultimately issued formal declarations as to their causes for secession, those declarations leave little doubt as to the thinking behind the Confederate movement. Each of them noted that the “domestic institution” of slavery was their principal concern, and the one they felt was most threatened by the election of Lincoln. Whether their own states’ right to hold blacks in bondage, or the right of white settlers in the West to bring chattel there and establish new slave states, it was this end for which the breakaway states announced their secession.