Does someone you know–a family member, a co-worker, or your seventh-grade history teacher–suffer from profound ignorance about the Civil War?
Maybe you know That Guy. You know who he is. He’s the guy who, upon hearing “the Civil War was fought over slavery“, quickly ducks into a phone booth (good luck finding one) and transforms from Chad Splain (that annoying relative at the holiday dinner table who thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group bc they don’t protest in the “proper” way and who doesn’t realize his white supremacy informed-advice to Blacks on how best to achieve racial justice is neither wanted nor needed) to his alter-ego, the confederate cape wearing, totally not racist White Savior Man:
he who can change the course of mighty comment threads by crying “Reverse Racism” bc a Black person called him a cracker
he who thinks neither POTUS45, the Muslim ban, or the border wall are racist. And he knows what racism is bc “It’s right there in the dictionary!”
and he who engages in a never-ending battle to “educate” people about the true reason the Civil War was fought.
Heck, even if you don’t personally know a supporter/apologist for the Confederacy, you’ve likely bumped into them online (if you’ve not met one of these, be thankful bc the stench of white supremacy lingers) and marveled at how distraught they are about symbols of the Confederacy being removed from public property. These are the people who look at statues of Confederate soldiers and claim on the one hand that the soldiers were heroes fighting against a tyrannical federal government that sought to infringe upon states rights and on the other hand claim that removing the monuments is an attempt to rewrite history (with neither hand even realizing the irony).
If you know someone like those described above, don’t fret. There is hope for correcting the mountain of misconceptions about the Civil War. They can still be saved. The gaps in their knowledge, their misconceptions, and even the lies they believe need only be exposed to the light of truth:
A pro-Confederate flag group on Facebook put up this deeply ridiculous meme recently. There are a few problems I can see with the it. First off…oh, you know what, let’s be fair here. I don’t want to be so overly critical of the meme maker that I neglect to offer them praise. I mean they totally deserve a slow clap or two for their ability to Google ‘how many people died in the Civil War‘ and come up with 620,000. That level of talent just boggles the mind. So yeah, let’s take a moment to congratulate the meme maker here for the ability to find a number related to the Civil War. Now, about those problems with the meme.
Content Note: Discussion of slavery and white supremacy, disturbing imagery
For much of my life, I thought I knew about slavery and white supremacy in the United States. Not everything mind you. But I knew about that ‘peculiar’ institution. I watched ‘Roots’. I saw ‘The Color Purple’. I knew stuff.
I knew that millions of Africans were enslaved and brought to the United States where they had no rights.
I knew that these Africans were not considered full human beings, and had no rights.
I knew that they could be bought, sold, traded, and bartered like property.
I knew that male slave owners often raped their female slaves and bore illegitimate children which they sold when the children were of sufficient age.
I knew that families had been ripped apart and destroyed. I knew that black families sought to form whatever communities they could, often in the form of churches, though white people would have none of that.
I knew about slave patrols, which played a role in the development of modern policing.
I knew about black people being whipped, chained, disemboweled, and brutally beaten.
I knew the tools often used to keep black people enslaved.
I saw the images of black people before, during, and after they were whipped.
I knew all of that and more still. I knew that slavery was a vile institution; one that dehumanizes its victims (in this case, African-Americans), treats them as things…as property. I knew that the Civil War was fought over slavery; that slavery was the bloodiest conflict in US history. I knew the Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery. But there was much I did not know. Oh boy, was there ever. Here are three things I’ve learned about slavery and white supremacy in the last year, one of which I learned about today.
I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the historical ignorance on the part of many Southerners. In the wake of the June 17 act of racial terrorism that took the lives of 9 African-American churchgoers in Charleston, SC, a debate has reignited over the Confederate flag (which has flown over the South Carolina state capitol since 2000). On one side of the debate are those who argue that the flag represents white supremacy, slavery, and treason. On the other side are those who think the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage and freedom from tyranny. The supporters of the flag are attempting to revise history with proclamations such as “The Civil War was fought over states’ rights”, “The Confederate flag represents bravery, valor, and heroism”, and “The Civil War wasn’t just fought over slavery”. The only proper response to the previous claims are (IMO) “no, it wasn’t”, “no the fuck it doesn’t”, and “hell yes it was”. While I’m sure that many people are genuinely ignorant of the causes of the Civil War and the symbolism of the Confederate flag (owing to deliberate attempts to paint the Southern states in a positive light in the wake of the Civil War), I have no doubt that many other people know full well what they argue for. Whatever the case may be, it disgusts me that whether intentional or not, people are defending the indefensible. To understand the reasons why supporters of the Confederate flag are deeply wrong, a little history lesson is in order. The following is a broad overview of the causes behind the Civil War.