Monday, August 14, 2017

What REAL "Heritage, Not Hate" Would Look Like

My father was career military so I'm not really “from” any one particular place, but between childhood, adolescence and adulthood, I've spent more than half my life living in former Confederate states, so technically, I qualify as a “Southerner.” And I'm about as pale as you can get without crossing the line into full-fledged albino status, which means I'm among the whitest of white Southerners, too.

Meanwhile, there's an ongoing argument which claims that my own heritage, history and/or culture is under attack, due to efforts to remove Confederate memorials from public places, or rename public streets and buildings named after Confederate heroes. To which I say: hogwash. Quit honoring Confederates; the only good thing to say about the Confederacy is that it lost. If private citizens want to continue honoring the memory of slavery and those who fought to defend it, that of course is their right, but the government should not be using taxpayers' money to glamorize such people.

Nor am I impressed by arguments that statues or road signs honoring Confederates are a vital part of “Southern heritage,” “Southern history” or “Southern culture.” Surely, there's more to the heritage, history and culture than those four years fighting for the right to own slaves? You could name streets after various Southern literary greats -- there's far too many to mention here, but off the top of my head I can think of Harper Lee, Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Truman Capote and Alice Walker. Or, erect monuments and name public buildings after the various genres of music which started in the South, or the Southern musicians who made those genres famous. One could honor famous painters and other artists from the South. Or Southern inventors and scientists ranging from John Pemberton to George Washington Carver …. if “honoring Southern history, heritage and culture” (rather than honoring white supremacy and those who fought to maintain it) were the actual goal, there are plenty of options which don't require fetishizing the four years white Southerners spent trying to secede from the United States so they wouldn't have to give up their slaves.

(To forestall any arguments a la “It wasn't about slavery; it was about states' rights! And tariffs!” .... bullshit. Read the actual Confederate states' own articles of secession, which explicitly mention the importance of preserving slavery and/or white supremacy. As for the counterargument “What about monuments honoring slaveowners such as Washington and Jefferson, huh? You wanna take THOSE down, too?” ... those men today are honored and remembered for other things they did despite the stain of slavery on their souls. There's a big difference between “refusing to honor famous people who happened to own slaves” and “refusing to honor people who are famous solely because they fought their own countrymen to preserve the right to own slaves.” Had slavery never existed in America, there would still be plenty of reasons for American history books today to remember the likes of Washington and Jefferson ... but no reason at all to remember the likes of Jefferson Davis.)

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