Thursday, July 2, 2015
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Let Go of Your Blanket Linus! How the Confederate Battle Flag is Used to Manipulate & Exploit Poor Whites
“The standard image of Southern slavery is that of a large plantation with hundreds of slaves. In fact, such situations were rare. Fully 3/4 of Southern whites did not even own slaves; of those who did, 88% owned twenty or fewer. Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers. Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people. And yet most non-slaveholding white Southerners identified with and defended the institution of slavery. Though many resented the wealth and power of the large slaveholders, they aspired to own slaves themselves and to join the privileged ranks. In addition, slavery gave the farmers a group ofpeople to feel superior to. They may have been poor, but they were not slaves,and they were not black. They gained a sense of power simply by being white.”
Ok. I can only take so much of this "don't throw away the Rebel flag of the confederacy, its part of our heritage" stuff. As a preservationist, I usually embrace the idea that we need to retain evidence of progress by retaining evidence of our failures. However, the flag confounds that line of reasoning for a few reasons.
The flag is a lie that reinforces a lie. This is not figurative speech or hyperbole. The flag includes stars of two states that never formally seceded: Kentucky and Missouri. The state's legitimate governments never joined "The Cause". The Confederate Battle flag perpetuates false history, from its inception.
If the Confederate Battle flag symbolizes anything, it is the right of elite, land owning white males to own other human beings. THAT IS ALL. Not the rights of your poor, sharecropping white ancestor. They didn’t fight to preserve anything distinctly southern or “a way of life” that reflected their circumstance or economic reality. They defended an aspiration to be associated with those complicit in their own exploitation. If anything, Confederate soldiers defended their right to continue to own slaves and grow wealth much the way some investment houses grow wealth today, at your expense. The housing crisis and economic collapse should have proven that. If anything, that flag represents the persistent exploitation of the poor to fight for and protect the 1%'s agenda.
Basically, your ancestors didn't fight for southern heritage, but a way of life that in no way reflected their interests or even southern things you and I love like food, rural culture, or politeness. No, poor whites are and continue to be used. I don’t care what color they were, slave or free, the confederacy rounded up whoever they could, bribed them with a piece of a pie from which they would never partake, and called it a noble cause to save face and not accept that it was a treasonous effort that almost dissolved the Union.
There’s no chivalry and honor in a cause that was built on the rape of Black women and children. Southern chivalry, protection of delicate white women that need to be put on a pedestal…besides being sexist it also belies the complete vulnerability of underage Black girls and women, constantly raped and forcibly bred like animals. This also was a component of the genocidal aspects of slavery. The constant attacks on Black women created a rate of miscarriage and child mortality in the 90 percent range at times. The Confederacy was formed to protect and sustain exploitation of Black women, men and children, the poor, and to reproduce an overall system of oppression. Note that most of the Charleston 9 were women, murdered right after the white supremacist mass murderer saluted the cause of protecting white womanhood.
The flag is a reminder that the rich use race to obscure the use of poor bodies of all colors to support the 1%. White brothers and sisters, they bribed you. They told you to fight for the right to be "white" to be “one of us”, and we’ll call all of that southern culture. We’ll let you appropriate it as you wish and include things like guns or xenophobia. Doesn’t really matter. Just so it keeps you holding onto a false sense of security that never threatens their hold on you politically. This aspirational identity is rooted in the need to feel superior to someone else. To never feel like an Other. If nothing else, powerful white supremacist forces hope you can console yourself with the false security of "whiteness" as the landed gentry or the Koch Brothers construct it.
Let go of your security blanket. Take down the seditious Confederate Battle flag. The Flag will not keep you warm, stop marriages from ending, get you a job, tell you who you are as US population browns, stop the meth epidemic, educate your children, or allow you to "take back" a country which never belonged to you exclusively anyway.
Let it go!
And preservationists and historians, there is no need to retain a flag to remember this phenomenon, this false American trope of southern heritage. Repeatedly the poor and people of color have been asked to buy into symbols and ideas that only sustain the worst rather than the best of who we are. These symbols, including the flag, are life jackets with holes in them. Like the Southern Strategy, these symbols, assumptions, and dog whistles have enabled Republicans to retain control of the south with a racialized platform. This is not new, the Flag simply changes form. If reactionary forces aren’t using the Confederate Flag, they use media to promote distracting platforms that includes the war on drugs, assumed criminality of people of color and the poor, and a false notion that America is a meritocracy unsullied by bias and structural racism. The flag is one of many tools used to distract whites from the fact that they have much more in common with people of color (especially the poor) than they are led to believe.
The Confederate Battle flag is not southern heritage; it is American’s stumbling block, an impediment to truly progressive coalition building and organizing strategies geared toward dismantling the oligarchical and aristocratic forces that threaten any progress made on race relations, true gender equality, or economic justice. It IS hate, not heritage, because behind hate is always fear.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Monday, June 15, 2015
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
I loved this discussion and Q&A session, because rather than focus on only white people, they are about confronting white supremacy in oneself & how it colors the choices we make: relationships, how you treat people, partners, jobs, places to live. How does white supremacist patriarchy color the decisions you make?