23 December 2010

Jim Crow through rose-colored specs

Some folks in South Carolina celebrated the 20th as the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Secession  with a ball (they danced the Virginia Reel, choreography courtesy of Gone With the Wind). On the same day, Gov. Halely Barbour gave an interview with The Weekly Standard, wherein he dissembled about segregated life in Yahoo City, MS, his attending integrated schools, and downright lied about the White Citizens Council fighting for civil rights.

The Neo-Con (or Neo-Confed) script on this is that the War of Northern Aggression was a States Rights issue--NOT SLAVERY.  But 7 of the 13 states cited Slavery as the reason in their Acts of Secession, the other 6 cited Lincoln's being an illiterate incompetent as the reason. While it is true that the majority Southern Whites were not slave owners, the secession was the act of wealthy landowners--planters who owned slaves.

My Father's Mother's Grandfather, he was Scotch-Irish with a big estate near Winchester, Tennessee, he owned slaves. I have no idea of how many or their names or what became of them. My Grandmother told me stories about him and his children, seldom about the slaves. They rarely entered the narrative and when they did, only in humorous episodes. I might have asked about them, but I never thought of it. I had been raised not to think about slavery--that was long gone and now Negros were all happy and contented.

Haley was born in 1947, 7 years before me. He "experienced" desegregation in his senior year at the University of Mississippi; I attended 8th grade at S. J. Peters Middle School, which was fully desegregated. Of course, New Orleans is much larger than Yahoo City, and it was much harder for Blacks in his time to get into college, so that may not be relevant.
       Here is the thing, we were both taught history through a Southern prism, and that is why I did not ask my paternal Grandmother about the slaves in her stories: I had been ham-strung by my education.

The real story is the culture that produced both Halely and me. The entire White South believed that the Civil War was about preserving our great heritage, that Blacks had been happy as slaves--no farmer would abuse his animals, why would a slave-owner abuse his slaves? The hated Yankees wanted to destroy States Rights!

That argument doesn't hold water. Yankees had States, so why would they choose to destroy States Rights? Why do we hear now and then of farmers convicted of animal abuse (just think of those factory chicken farms, factory hog farms and cattle feed lots)? The majority of White Southerners didn't own slaves, so how could they be hijacked by the 2% who owned slaves and controlled the political power? Why did Congress just pass an extension of an obscenely huge tax for the wealthiest 2% of our time?

It was strictly about keeping the right to own humans as chattel. Not slavery.

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