Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Black Americans Should Thank Confederate Leaders for Their Rights

It is unlikely that the Civil War amendments would have been proposed and ratified if Confederate leaders hadn't precipitated the Civil War.   The fact that the civil rights amendments were an inadvertent result of the Civil War doesn't detract from the fact that the war resulted in ratification of constitutional amendments that outlawed slavery and would eventually guarantee all black Americans equal protection of the laws and  the right to vote.   Blacks should embrace the Confederate flag to show their gratitude for the benefits blacks received from the Civil War.   Incidentally I'm the great grandson of a Union army veteran and have on special feelings for the Confederate Flag". 

People should stop using the Confederate states and the Confederate flag as scapegoats for American racism.  At the time of the Civil War northern whites appear to have been far more racist than southern whites.  Slavery at the time of the Civil War was not just about color.  Although most slave owners were white, there were black slave owners.  Although most slaves were black, there were some white slaves.

The white children of female slaves also became slaves.  For example, President Thomas Jefferson's slave concubine Sally Hemings was also his sister-in-law.  Hemings, who was legally classified as white, was the daughter of a union between Jefferson's father-in-law and a slave.  Several of their children subsequently passed for white after being freed and leaving Virginia.

The strange case of Jane / Alexina Morrison demonstrates that slavery wasn't necessarily about color.  According to the slave trader who sold her in Louisiana the blonde haired blue-eyed young woman he called "Jane" was born a slave. The woman who called herself "Alexina" sued him for kidnapping her. The case bounced around the Louisiana courts just before the Civil War with juries siding with Alexina and the courts with the slave trader.  It  apparently is still technically before the courts.   Regardless of which person was telling the truth, the fact that the courts even considered the possibility of Morrison being a slave demonstrates that white slaves were a part of southern slavery.

The fact northern states prohibited slavery didn't mean they treated blacks fairly.   One of the reasons they didn't want slaves was because many northern whites were bigots.  They  hated blacks whom they considered inferior and didn't want them around regardless of whether they were free or slaves.   A northerner would have been far less likely to have had the type of relationship Jefferson had with Hemings.

"[R]ace prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known." --Alexis De Tocqueville, �Democracy in America� 1835

At the start of the Civil War black Americans had few rights even in the states that didn't allow slavery.   Most northern states, including recently admitted Kansas, prohibited blacks from voting.  Many limited blacks to performing the least desirable jobs and living in the least desirable locations.   Indiana wouldn't allow blacks to attend school.  Illinois tried to keep them out entirely.

"When the Civil War ended, 19 of 24 Northern states did not allow blacks to vote. Nowhere did they serve on juries before 1860. They could not give testimony in 10 states, and were prevented from assembling in two. Several western states had prohibited free blacks from entering the state. Blacks who entered Illinois and stayed more than 10 days were guilty of "high misdemeanor." Even those that didn't exclude blacks debated doing so and had discriminatory ordinances on the local level."

Two Civil War era incidents demonstrate the racism of northerners and the United States government. 

On November 29, 1864, a unit of the Colorado Territorial Militia murdered peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne women and children at Sand Creek.    Almost exactly four years later on November 27, 1868, George Armstrong Custer led a unit of the United States cavalry to murder peaceful Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his people on the Cheyenne reservation on the Washita River in Oklahoma territory.

The Civil War allowed Abolitionists  to gain power and push their agenda which included rights for blacks.   It is unlikely they could have gained approval for amendments guaranteeing blacks equal rights, especially the right to vote, without the Civil War.   States that didn't allow blacks to vote would have been unlikely to ratify a constitutional amendment approving that right  except as a means of punishing the southern states for the Civil War.

The southern states didn't have slavery because the white residents were racist.  Slavery developed in the early colonial period because of the difficulty of attracting farm labor.  Land owners initially used "indentured servants"  who served for a period of time before being given their freedom.  Initially most indentured servants were white, especially Irish who were forced to come to America so the English could take their land.  The first Africans arrived at Jamestown in 1619.  They were treated just like white indentured servants with some landowners giving them land after they finished their period of indenture.

Later landowners decided they would rather have permanent slaves even though that hadn't been the British practice. The fact that Africans were considered foreigners provided a loophole to treat them as permanent slaves. The color difference was a bonus that made it easier to slave from non-slave.  The idea that they might be inferior developed as a rationalization for treating them differently. 

The southern region slipped into the trap of slavery during the colonial period and no one at the time of the Civil War could figure a way to change to a different labor system.   Slaves had become a significant financial asset and abruptly freeing slaves without compensating the owners, at least in the form of some type of loans, would have been the equivalent of burning up money.   Without compensation the owners would have lacked money to rehire the former slaves as employees.  Without money the former slaves would have been unable to buy food.

Jim Downs in his book "Sick from Freedom" indicates that the abruptly freed slaves suffered
"the largest biological crisis of the 19th century".  Mass starvation and rampant disease affected as many as 1 million of the 4 million slaves.   The racism of northerners likely contributed to this crisis because many of them didn't care what happened to the former slaves..

A growth in immigration capable of  creating a labor surplus conceivably could have eventually caused a shift to paid workers by giving companies with paid workers a competitive advantage.   If a slave died the business had to purchase a new one. If a paid employee died, the company just hired someone else.  A slave owner had to continue to provide food, clothing and shelter to slaves during economic downturns to protect his investment.  Paid workers could be laid off.
The Confederate states decision to leave the Union wasn't just directly about the slavery issue.   The southern agricultural economy needed different economic policies, particularly on tariffs, than the northern economy.  People in the region, including some of the more knowledgeable slaves, may have developed a common identity of being victimized by the northern states because they lived in the south. They may have agreed with leaders that their states no longer had a stake in the union.   Such an attitude could explain why some blacks, both slave and free, decided to fight for the confederacy.  Slaves might have been worried that the war would replace one master with another.  They didn't know President Abraham Lincoln intended to free them until after the war.  White soldiers who didn't own slaves [
only 33% of families owned slaves] may have held such an attitude in addition to being worried about how an invading army might treat them and their property.  Some white soldiers had only limited incomes and the military service was an improvement.  Northern soldiers may have been fighting to end slavery, but southern soldiers had more complex attitudes. 

American racism has nothing to do with the Confederate Flag or the Confederate States of America.  The real racists are just trying to use the Confederate Flag as a scapegoat for their own efforts to divide Americans into phony racial categories.   Censoring the Confederate Flag or removing the statues of  Confederate leaders will do nothing to reduce racism because these symbols are not responsible for perpetuating the outright lie that black Americans and white Americans belong to different "races"

The Confederate Flag is no more inherently racist then the crosses that the Ku Klux Klan liked to desecrate by burning.  The best way to discourage the use of the Confederate Flag by racists is to convert it into a symbol of racial unity.   This action should be part of a process in which those people who had ancestors living in the south prior to World War II recognize they likely have cousins whose skin is of a different color than theirs.

Sex across the color line in the south likely began even before an African named John Punch married a white woman who was probably an indentured servant in about 1835. Barack Obama's mother was one of the descendents of this union.   In early Virginia young people often had to marry across the color lines because the number of man in a color group didn't always equal the number of women.  Later when Virginians decided to have blacks be permanent slaves, rather than indentured servants, many planters required their African male slaves to marry their white (primarily Irish) female indentured servants so the resulting children could be kept as permanent slaves.  A change in laws made a child's status as slave or free determined by the mother's status.  It was only free white women who were prohibited from having sex with black men because they children would have been free.  Some of the descendents of these mixed marriages would eventually be able to pass for white and become part of the white population.

Slavery typically includes sexual relations between men in the master class and women in the slave class.  Some of the descendents of these relationships might eventually pass for white as was the case with children of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.   After slavery sex between white men and black women was allowed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had an Irish ancestor.  Sen. Strom Thurman had a black daughter by the daughter of his family's housekeeper.   These type relationships mean  many southerners have cousins of a different color.
Those who talk about southern racism ignore the north's own racism.  The Roberts Case which provided the "separate but equal" doctrine  for the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision allowing racial segregation  was a Massachusetts court case.  Lawrence, Kansas, which was a center for anti-slavery sentiment had segregated schools. 

Southern racism didn't become a serious problem until long after the Civil War.  For a brief period in the late 19th Century blacks and whites were working together politically.  Then southern white leaders began encouraging racism to keep themselves in power.  These racists received major assistance from the Supreme Court when it condoned racial segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson case.   They later received assistance from Hollywood with the extremely racist movie "Birth of a Nation"

The Chicago race riot in 1919 in which 34 people died demonstrates northern racism in the early 20th Century.  The riot was one of many Red Summer race riots in northern and southern cities which included a lynching of a black prisoner in Omaha, Nebraska.  In 1992 the acquittal of white officers who beat a black taxi driver named Rodney King triggered a race riot.

The use of demonstrations to deal with racial discrimination began in northern cities in the 1930's with the "don't shop where you can't work" department store boycotts.  Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., led a bus boycott to force the hiring of black bus drivers in New York City.

The Board of Education in the Brown v. Board of Education case which outlawed school segregation was in Topeka, Kansas.  Wichita, Kansas, high school students conducted a sit-in to force a drug store to integrate its lunch counter in 1958.    Housing segregation remains a reality in many northern cities.  Recent controversial incidents of police killings of black men have occurred in cities that were in the Union during the Civil War. 

Northern states allow the operation of "Jane Crow" health facilities.   A "Jane Crow" health facility is a facility that primarily treats minority women but isn't as strictly regulated as facilities treating white men.  Such facilities violate federal civil rights law.  Tonya Reaves died as a result of a botched abortion in one such facility, which lacks a license to operate,  in President Barack Obama's hometown of Chicago.

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