Responding to Georgia’s move to declare April “Confederate Heritage Month,” Erik throws the crackers into the horse trough:
The bill’s sponsor State Senator Jeff Mullis wants to honor “all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause of Southern Independence.” Meaning those millions, of whom approximately 3 were not white, who tore the country in two in order that they could enslave black people. These treasonous Confederates are clearly worth honoring. After all, not only did they leave the union in order to rape and kill blacks with impunity, tear their families apart, and take their labor for nothing, but they also caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans! Go Confederacy!
It strains credulity, of course, to hear Southern apologists insisting that they’re merely trying to “honor” the contributions of a multiracial, multiethnic, ecumencial Confederacy. As David Blight’s Race and Reunion argues with great eloquence, the Civil War was as much a struggle over memory as anything else. After the war ended, there were essentially three modes of historical available to account for the origins and brutality of the war — the white supremacist romance of the Lost Cause; the freedperson’s narrative that clearly identified that origins of the war in the inhuman system of chattel slavery and saw the war as an opportunity to vindicate and reconstruct the nation’s mission (and its Constitution); and the reconciliationist narrative that urged quick “reunion” between warring brothers.
Blight demonstrates that by the 1890s (and unquestionably by World War I) the reconciliationist memory of the war acquired hegemonic status — and it did so by throwing the cause of black equality under the wagon and, indeed, accomodating key aspects of the white supremacist narrative, including its willful denial of slavery’s centrality to Southern nationalism. In films like Birth of a Nation, for example, we can see elements of both accounts working quite successfully together to make an argument against black freedom. African American historical perspectives are obviously inadmissible, because they would undermine the totality of that racist fable.
My point here is quite simple — in any public recollection of the American Civil War, there is simply no way to “honor” the Confederacy without reinforcing a sense of satisfaction with the cultural and political victories it miraculously achieved in the half-century that followed the war. The memories that Georgia’s legislature seeks to honor were instrumental in the longer project of racist subordination that guided that state well into the 20th century. Not to acknowledge that is, as Loomis points out, to basically admit to being an asshole.
(On a more personal note, I’m already irritated beyond measure that Georgia celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on my daughter’s birthday. Now they have to go and potentially spoil the entire month.)