Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Racism, Slavery, and Confederate Battle Flag

While I agree with the call to take down the Confederate Battle Flag flying over a confederate memorial in the capital of South Carolina, I've seen something around this call that disturbs me: identifying the Confederacy as a "Racist state" implying that the Union was not also racist.  Such an implication is a whitewashing (pun intended) the historical realities of the United States and thus our present.  Some at this moment want to attempt to exorcise racist hatred and violence by claiming the Confederacy was the repository of all racism in the United States.  We want to move the Confederacy to history museums (and by implication, pretend racism is in the past).  The Northern states and the Union weren't less racist they were just racists that ceased to believe in the economic and social benefits of enslaving blacks.

This article lists a number of statues of Confederates (Many who also served in U.S. congress) whom the article calls racists. Yet while the Civil war was fought over slavery, it wasn't that the North had repented of its racism and the south stubbornly clung to it. rather it was simply to versions of the same racist system, one that still is in existence up and until this moment, even with a Black president.

I'm not defending states flying the Confederate battle flag and given that among the things the Confederacy stands for it was among the last defenders of enslavement of Africans. So, that it represents oppression of Blacks is simply the reality of the secession of the Southern states to form the Confederacy. But to suggest that some how the Confederacy is the sum total of the repository of racism as the only racist State because of its defense of slavery equates racism with slavery.  That is a dangerous equation.

Enslavement of Africans is only one aspect of the systemic racism of the United States.  Also, even as the northern states outlawed slavery, the economy of the United States continued to benefit from slavery. Another aspect of the racist economic and political system of removal from their land and genocide of Native Americans.  To this day across this country Native Americans are on tracts of land the White American Government didn't find useful.

In truth many of the people we honor in our country are racists. Presidents of the United States owned slaves.  Congress and the Presidency had up and until the Civil Rights Movement both tacitly and actively endorsed racist policies and benefited economically from them.

The racism we are still facing, still exists in part because it is much larger than (though it includes) the Confederate battle flag, and the hate filled and racist attitudes of a Roof .  Roof and that the Confederate Battle flag has been flying in Southern State capitals, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The larger reality of racism isn't something we can put in the Confederacy, then apologize for slavery and then attempt to move on as if that erases the racist economy and politics that allowed for our imperial expansion from east coast to the west coast and created much of the wealth we take for granted, including the land all of us live on.