Thursday, August 8, 2013

Seriously? We Have To Do Racism Again?

Apparently we do, because this summer is being really awful about it.

On I-95 in Richmond, Virginia, near the state capitol, a group called Virginia Flaggers has announced their intention to fly a 15-foot-wide Confederate flag. According to their announcement regarding it, "The flag will serve to welcome visitors and commuters to Richmond, and remind them of our honorable Confederate history and heritage."

Honorable. Honorable Confederate heritage. Really.

As founder Susan Hathaway told the Richmond Times-Dispatch back in March, when Virginia Flaggers was protesting the decision by the Museum of the Confederacy not to fly a Confederate flag out front, "It's a symbol of my ancestors and what they fought for and what they gave their lives for in a lot of cases... We feel like it's dishonoring them to put some kind of shame on the flag and make it something that has to be hidden."

Dishonoring what the Confederates fought for. Really.

I don't know what other root causes might be underlying as to why people might take this side in an argument such as this. Perhaps they don't want shame on their bloodline and feel an obligation to defend their ancestors. Perhaps it's too much to bear to contemplate the possibility that their home side lost, or that their forefathers may have backed the wrong horse. Perhaps it's a sunk-cost thing, where that kind of realization, especially after putting so much effort into backing the wrong side, would mentally destroy them. We've covered that here. Maybe it's straight-up racism.

But maybe people genuinely don't know. I don't know how they wouldn't, but people in the United States have been shown to not know some surprisingly simple things. So fine. Let's go over what, precisely, the Confederacy fought for and what their heritage is, and determine exactly how honorable it is.

An easy way to do that is to read each Confederate state's declaration of causes of secession. In other words, their declarations of independence. The explicit reasons that they gave for leaving the Union, and therefore, what, exactly, they would go on to fight for. Virginia did not create one, but four of the other Confederate states- South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas- did. They're far too long to reasonably repost here in full, but we'll take a few excerpts.

Here's how Georgia begins their declaration. This is their We The People equivalent.

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. 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. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.

They come right out and say it at the start: slavery. They're leaving because they want to keep their slaves. They go on to say it and say it and say it to the point where it is almost the sole and only topic of the declaration. Later on you see this:

A similar provision of the Constitution requires them to surrender fugitives from labor. This provision and the one last referred to were our main inducements for confederating with the Northern States. Without them it is historically true that we would have rejected the Constitution.

Translation: Georgia's dressing down the north for ignoring the Fugitive Slave Act and stating that without the right to keep slaves, they never would have joined the United States in the first place.

Let's see about Mississippi, shall we?

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Well, that doesn't exactly leave much to the imagination, now, does it?

 South Carolina, your turn.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.
The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.
The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

Once again, this is about the Fugitive Slave Act. Continuing:

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume 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. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

Why, they say that like it's a bad thing. Texas, you're up. Why are you seceding?

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them? 

Gee, I believe I might be noticing a trend here.

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They 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. 

There you go, folks. Slavery. Right from the horse's mouth, it was about slavery. That is why the Confederacy came into existence. That is why the Confederate flag was flown. That is why Confederate soldiers fought and died, and that is the "heritage" the flag commemorates.

As for Virginia itself, they do still have an ordinance of secession to look at. These are much shorter and a little more boilerplate, so we can post it in its entirety:

AN ORDINANCE to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United State of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.
The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitition were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States:
Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying and adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.
And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day, when ratified by a majority of the voter of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.
Adopted by the convention of Virginia April 17,1861.

The oppression of the Southern slave-holding states. I'm not sure how much more explicit it has to be. There's no nuance. There's no ambiguity. There is absolutely no getting away from it. You fly a Confederate flag, whether you mean to or not, you are displaying little else than a cloth-laden declaration that human beings ought to be kept as property. That is its history. That is its heritage.

Some kind of shame, indeed.

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