nick of time

I simply could not let the month go by completely without acknowledging Confederate History Month.  So, if you didn’t know… now you know…and you have the next hour and 16 minutes or so to observe it as you see fit.

From Wikipedia (the shame, i know):

-Confederate History Month is a month annually designated by six state governments in the Southern United States for the purpose of recognizing and honoring the history of the Confederate States of America. April has traditionally been chosen, as Confederate Memorial Day falls during that month in many of these states.

Although Confederate Memorial Day is a holiday in most Southern states, the tradition of having a Confederate History Month is not uniform. State governments or chief executives that have regularly declared Confederate History Month are as follows:

  • Alabama
  • Florida (since 2007)
  • Georgia (by proclamation since 1995, by legislative authority since 2009)
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Texas (since 1999)
  • Virginia (1994–2002, 2010)

Four states that were historically part of the Confederacy, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, do not have a tradition of declaring a Confederate History Month.-

Yep, Confederate Memorial Day.  Who knew?

Reading this passionate blog post refuting (with what I hope are actual facts… mea culpa re: no fact checking) the good old “It was about States Rights, not slavery” stance might be a fine way to spend the last few moments of this month of remarkable celebration.


Confederate History Month: Celebrating Racists, Traitors And Slavers

Right now, this very second, we are in the middle of Confederate History Month. Right now, this very second, there are entire states celebrating their failed attempt to secede from the United States while killing hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and civilians.

These people are, by and large, a**holes.

Now, this isn’t like the descendants of World War II vets (and the surviving vets themselves)commemorating a long and bloody war; these people are celebrating the side that lost. You know, the one that attacked the very country Southern conservatives claim to love more than life itself? And let’s be honest, most of the people who fly the Confederate flag are not liberals. These are the people who long for the “good ol’ days” when the South was a decent proper place where a white man could whip a black slave just for fun.

Oh, did I offend? Tough noogies.

This is about the time that some jackass insists that the Civil War was about “state’s rights.” You see, this is a story that Southerners enamored of the Old South tell themselves, and anyone in earshot, to avoid the reality that they are “proud” of a heritage inextricably bound to slavery and treason.

Take a moment to enjoy the sound of right-wing heads exploding.

Now, there are a numbers of ways to debunk this fairy tale that the South was all about state’s rights and “freedom” from an oppressive central government and it’s hilarious watching traitor-worshipping conservatives contort themselves to avoid the truth. So let’s make a list!

1. Declaration of Causes of Seceding States:

Georgia “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

Mississippi “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world.”

mississippi abolishes slavery

South Carolina “Those [non-slaveholding] States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States.”

Texas “They [non-slaveholding states] demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.”

Does it get any clearer than that? Yes, actually, it does.

2. The Cornerstone Address (I wrote about this in brief on my blog so it might seem a bit cribbed):

“The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the ‘rock upon which the old Union would split.’ He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the ‘storm came and the wind blew, it fell’.”

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

This speech was delivered on March 21, 1861, by the VICE PRESIDENT of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens. But what the hell did he know? He was just the VICE PRESIDENT. Do keep in mind, dear conservatives, that this was over one hundred years before Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. Vice Presidents generally had to be reasonably intelligent.

3. This is all crap! The Confederacy was all about FREEDOM™ and State’s Rights™ (FREEDOM and State’s Rights are both trademarks of the Angry Ignorant White Man Coalition, also known as the GOP)!!! 

Well, OK, if that were true, then the newly-minted CSA’s constitution would reflect that. Heck, if states wanted to abolish slavery on their own, then FREEDOM™ and State’s Rights™ would demand they be allowed to do so:

Article IV Section 9(3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.

Soooooo, no state could join the Confederacy unless it allowed slavery? What if they didn’t want it or changed their minds later? Well, that was just too bad. You HAD to allow slavery. Why? Because the central government would have forced you to. Just to make this crystal clear, a central government forbidding the enslavement of other human beings is “tyranny,” but a central government forcing states to adopt slavery is “FREEDOM™?” Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

There you have it, in their very own words; the traitors of the Confederacy attacked the United States and caused the bloodiest war in American history for the sole purpose of preserving their “right” to treat other human beings as property. Anyone that flies the Confederate flag, reminisces about “better times” or insists that “The South Will Rise Again!” is celebrating racists, traitors and slavers. If you celebrate a culture based on the most immoral of all crimes against humanity, you are, by definition, a racist asshole. If you try to pretend that slavery wasn’t so bad or that the “War of Southern Scumbaggery” was about FREEDOM™, you are a lying racist asshole. If you actually believe the right-wing whitewashing of the Civil War, you are delusional but not necessarily an a**hole (although the odds against this are not good).

bleaching history

encourage an important social change

I have long held a sneaking suspicion that by honestly exploring the mulatto experience we will encourage important social change.  I am thrilled to hear that way back when, others had the same idea.  But then slavery ended, and the “powers that be” really needed to maintain the color-coded class system that allowed them such control and wealth, and so did our chances (slim though they were) of being counted for what we really are.  This was not a chance, in my opinion, to distance ourselves from blackness, but to disprove the theory that white and black were different species. I do think we’ve moved beyond that antiquated notion, but I’m not so sure there aren’t a great number of people who consciously or unconsciously believe that black and white occupy space at opposite ends of the spectrum of one species.  I think this article says so much and says it very well.

Census reveals history of U.S. racial identity

by Sally Lehrman

Whether or not they can lay claim to a special category, the “Confederate Southern Americans” who want to write themselves into the U.S. census section denoting “race” have a point.

Race, as the social scientists like to say, is “socially constructed.” Since the founding of this country, we have been making it up as we go. Race is a modern idea, historians and anthropologists tell us, a means to categorize and organize ourselves that we constantly adjust.

The U.S. census serves as an archive of this change, a record of classifications that have been “contradictory and confused from the very outset,” says Margo Anderson, a University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, urban studies historian and expert on U.S. census history. Begun in 1790 as a solution to the problem of how to allocate seats in Congress, the survey didn’t mention “race” originally, but the idea as we understand it today was central. How should slaves be counted? Were they entirely property or were they people? What to do with “civilized” Indians?

Later Congress debated whether to include the word “mulatto,” Anderson says, and finally agreed – but for opposite reasons. Blacks and whites were different species, some argued, so their “unnatural” offspring should be counted. Others felt that documenting the children of black-white relationships would encourage an important social advance.

“Mexicans” were counted as a race in the 1930 questionnaire, but the Mexican government protested and the category disappeared. “Hindu” lasted for three decades. Koreans were written in, pulled out, and added back again.

All along, the “race” category of the census has been a powerful social and political tool wielded both to discriminate and to guard against discrimination. At first, survey categories reflected ideas about the divide between black and white, which immigrants were eligible for citizenship, and how to sort categories of “Indians.” Later, after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, its groupings also made it possible to measure compliance with equal treatment under the law.

The census reveals the process of race, the categories by which Americans construct difference and with difference, special privileges for some. It measures who and what matters, how resources have been allocated, and reflects the political, economic and social interests that prop up race. Race is defined and contested constantly, shaped in both personal and social realms all at once, according to Michael Omi and Howard Winant, sociologists who developed the central paradigm for studying contemporary race in American society.

Today, for instance, many Latinos refuse to conform to the forms of race described in the census. “Hispanic” is separated out as an “ethnicity” on the survey, so members of this group are expected to choose a race, too. About 40 percent in both 1980 and 2000 selected “some other race,” often writing in an identity such as “Venezuelan” instead.

But that’s not to say race is an illusion, a set of categories we can write in or wipe away like chalk on a blackboard. Race arose in America as a means to support and rationalize the slave economy. By the end of the 17th century, writes social anthropologist Audrey Smedley, wealthy planters had carefully woven it into a “rigid and exclusionist” system, a legal and institutional hierarchy built upon skin color.

We continue to shape race through both our institutions and everyday actions, and it powerfully shapes us. Public health statistics reveal the damage. On average, white people can expect to live about five years longer than African Americans. Even middle-class black people are more likely than any other group to live with a chronic health condition or disability. American Indians and Latinos suffer disproportionately from diabetes, Asian Americans bear a heavier burden of tuberculosis and hepatitis B, and the list goes on. While genetic scientists hunt for possible differences in susceptibility, public health experts shine their light on society.

Forces like everyday prejudice, segregated neighborhoods and unequal schools wear out hearts and immune systems, clog up air passages and make us fat. San Francisco is among the cities, in fact, studying the ways in which we build disparate health opportunity right into our streets. Who enjoys neighborhoods with clean, well-lighted sidewalks? Who has to battle congested traffic and diesel fumes to get to work or school? Who can walk to a farmers’ market on Saturday, and who sees only fast-food outlets block after block?

When confronted with race categories neatly printed out on a form, it’s tempting to see them as natural divisions. The inequities that go along with them, it seems to follow, are natural, too. With their proposition to claim themselves as a race, the Southern Confederates challenge all of us to contemplate what we mean by that term and what role we play in making its harms and hierarchies real. And when we learn about racial differences in health, in economic success, in education or any other measure, we should remember the confederates. Race matters, and we are the hands that shape it.

Read more:

the movie glory

I just finished watching Glory for the 5th time.  It might be my favorite movie.  This movie was actually the catalyst for my whole “biracial” revelatory aha moment.  While watching Glory for the 4th time, I realized that, seeing as this was the history of our country, it is a miracle that I (a black and white person) even exist.  Truly.  And then I realized that I didn’t really exist.  There was no recognition of the miracle.  Not even an internal, personal one.  I realized that the history depicted in the film was the truth and that I had fallen victim to it’s legacy and failed to know myself fully.  


Watching the movie tonight, I was again blown away by Denzel Washington.  “The tear” is one of the most memorable moments I have witnessed on screen.  I also kept searching for the moment that might have triggered the big realization. My guess is the part where Matthew Broderick (as Robert Shaw) takes the 54th out with the other “negro regiment.”  The other leader is an ass to say the least.  He not only refers to the black soldiers as “little monkey children,” but he is extremely immoral in every sense of the word.  He treats his soldiers like animals, they act like animals.  Robert Shaw treats his soldiers with respect, like men.  In turn they are respectful and respectable men.  

The most poignant moment for me this viewing though was when Broderick and Denzel Washington’s character (whose name escapes me), were discussing the predicament that was life in America at that time.  And arguably still is to a certain extent.  Denzel says “It stinks real bad.  And all of us are in it.  Ain’t no one clean.”  Broderick asks, “How do we get clean?”  There wasn’t a definitive answer, but if I had to glean one from the film it’s that we become clean when we decide to die fighting for what we now know to be right, no matter how many wrongs we may have committed in the past.  

Thank you Edward Zwick, for the movie Glory.  I think it should be required viewing for every American.