In the wake of the fight over the Confederate flag and the new that Texas school children will not learn that the Civil War was fought over slavery, two articles this week at the History News Network present us with more evidence that the South did not fight for states’ rights. Roy Finkenbine invokes “the little-known U.S. Supreme Court case of Ableman v. Booth” to argue that “[o]nly in the wake of Appomattox did former Confederates assert that the conflict had been waged over constitutional principles.”And Stephen R. Leccese argues that “[t]he states’ rights argument falls apart when one has an understanding of antebellum Southern history. Before the Civil War, the South was in no way a bastion of states’ rights.”
I agree with Leccese that “[t]his country’s educational system must do better and present an accurate view of history. When that happens, we can have a public that acts with an informed mind on issues of national (and international, as the world views race relations in this country very poorly) importance.”
It should have never been there! But getting rid of this horrible symbol of hate is not enough. We need to work on getting rid of the real hate and the remaining prejudices that perpetuate inequality and discrimination.
Ron Briley explores the reasons and consequences of the mythic narratives that perpetuate the sense of southern victim hood. “The notion that the Civil War and Reconstruction were foisted upon a defenseless South by a tyrannical central government retains considerable influence in a Southern ideology of persecution…Whether it is lowering the Confederate battle flag, mandating individuals to purchase health insurance, acceptance of gay marriage, or discussions of gun control legislation, there is a siege mentality for many in the South that their way of way in endangered. The region continues to rank at the bottom of most economic indicators dealing with health care, education, and levels of poverty, yet the Confederate flag promotes a legacy of racism that prevents impoverished blacks and whites from establishing common ground.”
Read Briley’s insightful essay on southern politics: