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Confronting Southern 'Victimhood'


#1

Confronting Southern 'Victimhood'

Robert Parry

Unlike the Germans after World War II who collectively shouldered blame for the Holocaust and the war’s devastation, America’s white Southerners never confessed to the evil that they had committed by enslaving African-Americans and then pushing the United States into a bloody Civil War in their defense of human bondage.


#2

Racial hatred in the South, and other places, seems to be etched in stone.


#3

It's sort of like naming a road "Hitler's Way" through a Jewish neighbourhood in Germany. Most Germans would recoil in horror at such a suggestion, but by contrast too many Americans embrace the 'good ole days' of slavery.
Meanwhile corporate America would like to return to those 'good ole days' but without the discrimination. Instead every American, regardless of the color of their skin, would enjoy the benefits of corporate slavery. Every corporation only seeks to increase its bottom line. If given the opportunity, corporations would avoid paying wages all together. This is why millions of jobs were 'exported' as corporations found it much easier to avoid wages in third world countries than at home. Our corporate highjacked government bent over backwards to accommodate them and the result is we now have billions of tons of slave labor produced junk imported into a shopping mall near you every day. Too bad that you don't have a decent paying job to pay for all of this imported junk, but at least it's cheap, right?
This is the very nature of the sociopathic behavior of corporations, yet most Americans don't see it that way. They believe in a benevolent corporation that would never consciously do something that was detrimental to the public interest. How many times have you heard someone mutter... "They can't do that! The public wouldn't allow it!", but the guillotine comes crashing down anyway.
Slave masters before the civil war felt that they were benevolent slave masters simply accepting their responsibility for caring for a 'handicapped group' that would perish on their own. However the new corporate slave masters don't even bother to pretend that they are benevolent in any shape or form as they stand by their right to be ruthless capitalists in a system that encourages the 'winner takes all' mentality. I don't like the fact that a street is named after an evil and ignorant man like Jefferson Davies, but naming a street, a stadium, an airport, a shopping mall or any other publicly used space after a corporation is just as insulting to me.


#4

White people adn the elites of society have been writing the scripts here for too long regarding why they had to commit the atrocities they did. Don't follow their scripts. Don't listen to their narrative. It's only composed to justify their atrocities when there really was no justification. Counter their narratives and their scripts. Use the evidence that they ignore in their narratives. Face them with true reality vs the reality that they conjur up in their false-narratives.


#5

Well, first of all I live in the South (Georgia). I agreed, as a lot of people do around here, to remove the confederate battle flag from the state flag a number of years ago as it was a symbol of oppression to many of our citizens. Good riddance. It was only added by the state legislature back in the 50's as a nose thumbing to integration anyway. Sounds like the same for Jefferson Davis avenue in Richmond. The problem after that is that literally EVERYTHING around here seems to be named after arch segregationists democratic politicians from the 1880's to the 1960's, and to a smaller extent confederate leaders. Down the road is lake Richard B. Russell. I drive down Gene Talmadge memorial hwy to visit my kids. It's the same in all the southern states (not that racial subjegation is confined to the south, witness the state most controlled by the KKK was indiana in the 20;s), So, do you rename everything? I don't know.

As far as "Southern Whites" never apologizing for jim crow and slavery, there is no monolithic group called "Southern Whites". Many are transplants from other areas of the country, like me. The mountain people were Unionists during the civil war, and had no political power afterwards. So, Im not exactly sure how "Southern Whites" CAN apologize.

I do know a group that can apologize, but hasnt. The democratic party controlled this state before and after the Civil War. They created the Jim Crow laws and the KKK. They had a lock on the State Legislature until 1996...but they have never apologized for their support of, and creation of, segregation and denial of voting rights, racial terrorism, ect. They seem to have an extremely selective form of amnesia whereby they ALWAYS supported the rights of black americans, simply because they do now. It is the same in every southern state.

Please do not bombard me with the Republican Southern Strategy, the great racist party switch, blah blah blah. I'm not defending Republicans. Im just saying if we look at the past, the democratic party in the south (and as an integral part, the Democratic Party itself" ) has a lot to apologize for, and hasn't.

ps. I vote for Frederick Douglass blvd in place of Davis.


#7

It also important to note that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington also had slaves yet many of the same excuses the defenders of the South use for slavery as argued here are used to defend Washington and Jefferson.

As importantly under the US flag millions of First Nations people in the USA were slaughtered. Under the Red White and Blue virtually every treaty ever signed with these people was violated , languages extinguished and genocide committed. Just like those people in the South clinging to the Confederate flag those saluting the Red White and Blue refuse to come to terms with their own past.

One certainly does not excuse the other yet just as they are memorials to Southern Generals of the Civil war , there are things like the "custer memorial" and people lining up to the memorial of the Slave Owner Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson memorial. The legacy of racism and bigotry goes far deeper then the Confederate flag and Jefferson Davis.

So when Mr Parry wonders why a highway should be named after one Jefferson Davis, he should also wonder why a building named after the Slave owner Thomas jefferson and wonder why a library named after a man who promoted the "ideal" that the First nations peoples were first to be removed from East of the Mississipi in an act of ethnic cleansing , and than to be disappeared from the entire Continent so that the Anglo Saxon race could rule it. If it argued "we honor a Thomas Jefferson for the good he did and not his faults than in fact it argued that slavery and genocide were really not that big of a deal putting said person squarely in the same camp as the peoples claiming the South as "victim".


#8

This discussion is being fomented across the web of media to increase anxiety among the reactionaries who will go out and commit hate crimes and also as another slap in the face to black people. One more reminder that they are the actual cause of all our problems, that the confederacy attacked the North because of THEM, that the North was forced to destroy the rival economic region of the South because of THEM. And everyone seems to be playing along, especially the self righteous White Liberals who when the time comes will kick the black people living today to the curb. Actually they are currently doing it. BHO singing a song at their funerals is pretty symbolic. May as well be dancing a jig on their graves with his Goldman voucher for future pay in his back pocket.


#9

The carvings of Robert E- Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jeff Davis on Stone Mountain - a bare granite dome that rises just outside Atlanta - are larger than Mount Rushmore. The mountain was a popular place for KKK cross burnings for many years.


#10

We have a long way to go to a more just and equal society. We all know it - just look at the approval rating of Congress. "Atomized", we each perceive ourselves as powerless to fix the evils being ignored or even advanced by our ‘leaders’.
And thus it has always been. The blatant evil of feudalism, by the few against the many, lasted 1,000 years... we just replaced one incredible evil (feudalism) with another (slavery). Even now, the few will enslave us, to the extent they can.
I think most people are good. If we actually had a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then perhaps we could move in the right direction. To the extent to which we have a government of the plutocrats, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats, we will be moving in the wrong direction – don’t ya know?


#11

Whether through deliberate guile of delusion, racist fascism always wraps itself in victimhood - the genocidal and ethnic cleansing Ulster-Scot settlers of N. America, the US "Confederacy", Germany, S. Africa, Israel...


#12

oops, posted in wrong place and cannot delete...


#14

At bottom, the lost cause was lost as a fight to preserve slavery and domination as usual, not southern freedom.

It's interesting that Arlington National Cemetery is built on land that was once the plantation of Robert E. Lee. Lee was offered command of the Union army before war broke out. When fighting began, Lee stood by the State of Virginia and would come to lead the forces of slavery. Lee's military genius almost forced the Union to make a deal recognizing the Confederacy in 1863-4.

If things had gone differently at Gettysburg, Britain and France might have recognized the Confederacy, and Lincoln might have lost his re-election campaign in 1864 to an anti-war Democrat. who would have ended the war, leaving an independent slave holding Confederacy. But Lee choose frontal assault at Gettysburg and the Union forces prevailed and Britain and France remained silent, and Lincoln was re-elected.

Lee, when the war turned against the South in 1864, proposed to let slaves fight in the Confederate army. This was greeted with horror by men like Jeff Davis and arch slaver Howell Cobb, former speaker of the House of the US, and then for the Confederacy. If we do this, Howell said, then why are we fighting?

The sometimes murderous nostalgia for the Old South and the Confederacy is all about slavery and endless domination. That's the sad truth.


#15

Robert Parry is right on the mark that those Southerners who identify as "white" have failed to appreciate the evil of slavery and have instead generated a ludicrous, pathetic and entirely disingenuous myth that they, rather than African Americans, have been the primary victims of US racial history. Thomas Jefferson spoke critically of slavery, but mostly because he saw it as degrading to "whites" rather than exploitative of blacks. Jefferson thought it was bad (morally corrupting) for children of the master class to grow up with despotic power at their disposal. He did not give much thought to how despotism negatively affected the hapless slaves.Many of the Founders who expressed anti-slavery views were of the same mind as Jefferson: slavery might be bad for the blacks but it was even worse for the whites.

When the pro slavery argument was developed in the 1830's , Southern ideologues put forward the preposterous notion that slaves on the plantation had it better than northern workers in the factories. While the Southern ideologues were dead right that "Manchester" style capitalism was positively hellish for the laboring class, it wasn't exactly a paradise in the slave quarters of the Cotton Kingdom, leaving aside the fact that what matters most to people is the right to lay claim to themselves, something that was denied the "human chattels" all over Dixie.

Pro slavery apologists developed a forceful critique of capitalism as a "free labor system" but only with a view to justifying the system of forced labor at the South. Nonetheless, these amoral sophists perpetuated the myth that "whites" in America suffered more than "the blacks."

The self-pity of the White South came to a head at the close of the Civil War. It was supposed to be a great historic tragedy that plantation mansions were burnt to the ground by the invading Union armies, dooming "the Southern way of life." The far-greater tragedy of a people held in bondage did not seem to touch the moral conscience of southern nationalists. The cry went up: "we've lost everything we had." Of course, the "slaves" lost nothing in the Civil War because they had nothing to begin with. But the slaves eventually gained freedom from bondage. This should be seen as one of the greatest moral events in human history. But the self-pitying laments of the slaveholders has kept from view the real significance of Emancipation. A vile stupid book like "Gone with the Wind" is treated as the authoritative account of the Civil War.

Robert Parry is right: "white victimhood" remains with us. We hear it the shouts about "reverse discrimination' and affirmative action; in the gripes about "taxes" and the complaints about "welfare," code words for the "lazy," "shiftless" blacks who are ruining this great country. When will so-called "white" people wake up from the American nightmare that is "race"? When will so-called "white" people give up on their whiteness and just accept the many challenges of being simply human?

Frederick Douglass pointed out that if the southern black slave was better off than the northern free laborer, then workingmen in Boston were free to go South and take his (vacant) place on the plantation. Unsurprisingly, northern whites were in no rush to migrate to the slave paradises of Georgia and Alabama. It's also a fact that while some white people go on about the many advantages of being black in contemporary America, very few of them (very, very few of them) would willingly trade their whiteness for "black power." Whites know full well that blacks in America face hard and unenviable challenges. That is why the story of Rachel Dolozel was so shocking: why on earth would she give up being a member of the master race to join a pariah people? Perhaps this country will move forward a step or two when people are able to take seriously this interesting question...

BTW. Can anyone tell me what is so admirable about the culture of the Old South celebrated by enthusiasts of the Neo Confederacy? The South generated no literary or scientific culture worth talking about. It's economy was stunted; it's political culture was essentially premodern; its social culture was horrible, with violence, drinking and religiosity being the habitual concerns. Some will say: what about the neoclassical plantation houses? But if a few mansions were proof of "civilization" then the Castles of Olde Europe would be sufficient proof that feudalism was an advanced social system. But in fact the vast majority of European peasantry lived in unworthy hovels, just as ante bellum slaves lived in conditions unfit for human habitation. I can find little in the Old South that is truly worthy of respect, but I see much to condemn and despise.


#16

Unlike the Germans after World War II who collectively shouldered blame for the Holocaust and the war’s devastation, America’s white Southerners never confessed to the evil that they had committed by enslaving African-Americans and then pushing the United States into a bloody Civil War in their defense of human bondage.

By and large it was evil Europeans who did the enslaving and evil NORTHERNERS who outfitted the slave ships (in New England making slave collars - real ones - was a cottage industry) and more evil NORTHERNERS who brokered the transactions by which a few Southern plantation owners acquired their slaves.

The wealthiest man in America when he died in 1854, Boston Brahmin Thomas Handasyd Perkins made his millions first by brokering slave sales in Haiti (along with his two brothers) and, when the global slave trade became illegal, by selling Turkish opium to the Chinese. The Forbes family owes its fortune to the Perkins, as Robert Forbes married those Perkins brothers' sister and when he died the brothers took his eldest under their wing and put him in charge of their China opium trade. Without the Perkins' slave trade money the Forbes family would not have its fortune either.

Robert Parry is usually excellent on foreign policy and I'm sure that had he taken the time to research the American slave trade instead of simply mouthing modern Northern liberal BS about both the South and the slave trade he could have written a meaningful article.


#17

I think victimhood is the mask, but not the cause of the problem. Since I live in the racist South's core Bible Belt region and have on occasion interacted with families who no doubt directly descend from those responsible for the ignominious Rosewood massacre, I carefully observe these persons and "what makes them tick."

A combination of male pride, respect for patriarchal traditions, and conservative Christian ideology fuses into a kind of arrogance that may come off as an inversion of victimhood. What it really comes down to is an incapacity to fully take in what one's fathers and grandfathers did. And in order not to take that fearless moral inventory and truly look at the inhumanity invoked on account of skin color differences, the unconscious strategy is to come off as "the injured party."

This reflex for inversion is everywhere these days.

Our nation's military bludgeons other foreign countries and the same racist fools talk about what "we" have spent ($) to spread "democracy."

One in five young women ends up raped at U.S. colleges (and universities) and many school presidents insist that such accusations work to harm the reputations (and career trajectories) of the male perpetrators.

Too many journalists take what is done by power--be it the bankster hustlers, corporate oligarchs, "law"makers, or MIC generals--and attribute it to the great amorphous flock of We, the People.

There is a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous refers to genuine introspection as "that fearless moral inventory." Until individuals can face and truly take in the barbarism of their ancestors, they will prop up excuses for it. These constitute a wall of denial and the energy that goes into holding it in place is itself the product of so much repressed anger, guilt, and shame.


#18

This is standard C.D. comment thread fare. IF this assertion was true, why do you suppose that support was so opposed to TPP and TIPP: obviously pro-corporate treaties?

There is a tendency on the part of commenters who want to come off as opposed to the system and/or capitalism, to blame ordinary people for what power--much of it consolidated into covert places and institutions--solely enacts. After the fact, there are those who deliberately take what is done by power and JUSTIFY it by calling fellow citizens sheeple, incapable of voting for "the right" persons (as if those individuals gain any fighting chance in an utterly controlled system), or being distracted... even when all sorts of protests and movements are busting out all over.


#19

Good comment. It's interesting that missing from everyone's comment (and Parry's analysis) is the role of the Fundamentalist, usually Baptist Church in all of this. People are capable of doing bad things, and that tendency gets unleashed when they are given false justification for doing so. Many of the post Civil-War lynching parties occurred right after church on Sundays in the south.

When religious and/or spiritual leaders use their purportedly divine authority to support war, violence, racism, misogyny, and blame-the-victim forms of Calvinism... they lead their flocks in morally repugnant directions. Since that WAS and still is in fact too often the case, it should be mentioned.


#20

MountainMan23: So according to your logic the "evil Europeans" who stole the Africans from their homelands are to be roundly condemned, as are the "evil Northerners" who outfitted the slave ships. But "the few Southern plantation owners" who purchased the slaves in the markets; who drove them in the fields; and brutalized them in order to keep them captive, these people are not be condemned so much as---what--understood? Slavery was a global system, localized in certain places in the world, like the US South and Brazil, but this does not mean that those local places aren't massively responsible for participating in a world evil. Obviously, people from Africa would never have been pressed into slavery if there wasn't a demand for slaves in Georgia and Alabama. No, the slave holding South must bear its share of moral responsibility for the catastrophe of the Atlantic Slave trade. There is no escaping this singular fact. Throwing around phrases like "modern Northern liberal BS" adds heat but no light to the issue. Bear in mind that Parry's argument is nothing new. Many a slaveowner guiltily recognized that one day the South (and the USA) would have to pay mightily for the sin of slavery. Not a few people interpreted the Civil War as just punishment from God for the wilful violation of his laws by "man holding property in man."


#22

I always enjoy your responses Siouxrose, but sometimes I think you get the "majority" mixed up with those informed citizens (like yourself) who really do represent a minority. Keep in mind that over 90% of Americans have never read a book since they left school. Or most Americans can't tell you who the vice president of the U.S. is (not that it really matters these days!) or what SCOTUS stands for. So do you really think that most Americans have any idea of what the TPP and the TIPP are? When I talk about 'most Americans', this is the group that I am addressing. That same group of Americans that don't read anymore, have very little or no interest in politics and that really couldn't care less what is happening in D.C. These are the same people who believe for the most part what is fed to them by corporate media, namely that low taxes on corporations and less government regulation are the cure alls for our economic woes.
As for the "support" that was opposed by a handful of 'informed citizens', the TPP and the TIPP will probably pass anyway just as the Glass-Steagall act was reversed, NAFTA was approved and dozens of other pro-corporate agendas were passed despite the concerted efforts of a few people to derail these runaway freight trains. In most instances when a treaty does fail to pass in Congress or the Senate, it is only because "opposing corporate interests" (not all corporations are on the same page after all!) were able to trump the other competing corporate interests rather than a sudden realization that the piece of legislation is bad for the 99%.
I never refer to people as "sheeple" (I find the term offensive) nor do I think that ordinary people are to blame for our corpocracy. The protests and movements are wonderful, but they still represent a small portion of the population in my humble opinion. The corporations take notice, but they don't act unless it affects their bottom line. Things like gay marriage, civil rights, flag burning, religious intolerance or even hanging a cop for murdering an innocent black person are examples of throwing the public a 'doggy bone' as those types of issues dominate our headlines simply because they don't interfere with the bottom line. But when it comes to removing money from politics, sharing the wealth, universal healthcare or ending the MIC, the mainstream media is completely silent giving the public the false impression that those issues are less important.
Currently the mindset of the average American does NOT pose a threat to the status quo and that's why it is business as usual in the heartland of America. You may be more optimistic that the general population is more in tune with what is going on than many other CD readers would believe. I am confident though that things are changing and I expect a groundswell of support in the future in our struggle to establish a functioning democracy here in the U.S.


#23

No sir. South bad, North good. My i-phone told me so.