Nobody–not even members of the
Republican Confederate Party–should try and celebrate Confederate History Month without reading Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Today TNC captured an essential fact about the Civil War: that it was three overlapping conflicts:
But I think, it also helps to think of the Civil War as having three factions with three different aims:
1) The South which secedes explicitly to protect the institution of slavery and a system of white supremacy, but also feels that its “way of life” is fundamentally different from the North’s. It’s true that slavery and systemic white supremacy are essential cogs in that “way of life,” but they aren’t the entirety of it.
2) The North which is interested, primarily, in preserving the Union. If destroying slavery will help in that end, then all the better–but destroying slavery is not the primary goal. This is crucial and I want to clear, because it’s easy to conflate this–That the North is primarily motivated by unionism, not emancipation, does not negate the fact the South seceded–primarily and explicitly–to preserve systemic white supremacy. Their own documents tell the tale well. Additionally, the North almost certainly, brings its own cultural baggage and biased judgement on the South’s “way of life.”
3) African-Americans who explicitly sought the destruction of slavery and the end of systemic white supremacy. The African-American war against slavery began as soon as we got of the boat. In relevance to the Civil War, you can likely trace it back to Denmark Vessey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, and John Brown. But that only counts militant action, and ignores the small everyday acts of resistance (loafing around, breaking equipment, running off for weeks at a time) and individual acts of violence (poisonings, for instance).
The entire essay is amazing, especially the story of Big Jack Johnson, but I want to focus on the three wars of the Civil War. Of these, only one faction won their war. That would be the Union. Their goal was to preserve the Union and that was accomplished.
In the wake of the Union victory the Confederacy has fought on for their goal to protect their ‘way of life’–a world view that was and is firmly rooted in the idea of white supremacy. Over the last 150 years they have fought in many ways and they have won quite a few battles, but mostly they just keep losing and that just makes them crazier and crazier. Having a black President has really sent them over the deep edge. The calls to celebrate Confederate History Month are an attempt by the
Republican Confederate Party to inspire the troops and rationalize away their hate, fear and rage.
In the wake of the Union victory African Americans also had some wins, but soon it became clear that the Union was not ready to to really join their fight to end systemic white supremacy and all of its many manifestations. In the sixties the Union finally decided to do the right thing and since then African Americans have been winning more of these fights, but not all of them. America at times can be an unreliable ally. Even with a Black President the fight goes on. The subtle and not so subtle racism of the Right is on display almost daily. Victory is near, but there are still a lot of Confederate deadenders always ready to fight on in their effort to prove that white always makes right.
And even though the Union long since decisively defeated the Confederacy, that does not stop the
Republican Confederate Party from trying to re-fight that conflict one more time. So much of wingnut/Teabagger rhetoric and fail comes straight out of old Dixie. It seems that the Confederacy was and is made up of sore losers, cry babies and magical thinkers.
It is way past time for the Civil War to end and to toss the Confederate ideology of white supremacy on the ash heap of history. The day that finally happens will be an event worthy of a month of celebration.