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The Long Arm of Dunningism


It’s unfortunate that not surprising that a major publication would run a lengthy piece about white racist Americans. We’ve seen approximately 780,000 since November 2016. However, it is amazing that the Guardian would run featuring Confederate flag humpers that would repeat Dunningesque and Bowersesque myths about Reconstruction. If you aren’t familiar, William Dunning was the historian who did the most to develop the scholarly consensus that Southern whites were basically correct about race and that Reconstruction was a horrible thing that oppressed whites. Claude Bowers was one of the lead figures popularized these ideas, as well as being one of FDR’s heroes. Others of course were Thomas Dixon and D.W. Griffith. The author of this is Donna Ladd, a Mississippi-based journalist who I guess still longs for the world of Griffith. But holy hell:

The flag’s history is fraught and complicated, as was the bloody civil war that erupted in 1861 between the US south – where America’s slave trade had relocated and expanded by the mid-1800s – and the north. After the north won, it imposed a harsh Reconstruction on the south that still fuels white resentment today.


No. Just no. I mean I could spend an hour debunking this racist absurdity, this falsehood that has done so much damage to this nation and caused so much horrible violence. But instead, just go read Foner. Or at least read about the Black Codes to get started understanding what the white South wanted after the war.

The rest of the article is OK in parts and not OK in parts, with the author concluding that the flag is bad and the Civil War really was about slavery, but that not everyone who flies the treason flag is racist. Sure, and the same is true for the Nazi flag too, amiright?

I guess there truly is an endless market for stories that just asks us to understand our racists.

….Ladd has received a lot of criticism for that wording and issues a statement here that is mostly a mea culpa, although I think she is a bit too defensive about it. That’s fine and all, but doesn’t really counter what I think the real point of all this is, which is that the white supremacist view of Reconstruction runs so deep in our society that it can become a default language to describe it, even if sometimes unintentionally.

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