We have been here before…
What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week should be of no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to American history. Essentially, this nation was founded upon the concept of white supremacy, grew into its current form based upon the notion of a “white man’s burden” to subjugate and teach “inferior” people white culture and their peculiar brand of Christianity, one in which invoking the name of Jesus Christ allowed them to colonize, enslave, beat, rape, torture, murder and pilfer lands from people of color.
From the earliest Colonial times all the way through the American Revolution, from the 1787 Constitutional Convention on to the Civil War in the 1860s, white supremacy loomed horrifically over every single decision that was made in the “New World,” one in which whites believed it their divine right to obtain all of the lucre available to them.
Yes, there always has been a vocal minority of whites who understood that the deeper issue was challenging the belief that blacks and Native Americans were inferior to white people. But that number was and remains a minority because even once hostility broke out during a Civil War that would cost more white lives than all others combined, the overwhelming majority of Union soldiers were not fighting because they believed the cause of ending slavery to be a moral necessity, rather, the same signed up and died because of their disdain for their insolent Southern brothers who were willing to tear the Union apart over the issue of slavery. Make no mistake, Slavery was the root cause of the Civil War, but as the great Frederick Douglass often reminded, free blacks in the North were treated with the same disrespect from white folks as their enslaved brothers and sisters received in the South.
Even the Great Emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln, believed that black people were intellectually and physically inferior to white people. Said Honest Abe:
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.” Abe Lincoln circa 1860
Arguably the greatest failure of Lincoln’s post-war plan was not being more vengeful toward the Southern traitors after the Civil War ended. Lincoln’s whole “with malice towards none, and charity for all” was white forgiveness under the tie that bound–white supremacy. In retrospect, Union military tribunals should have hanged Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens and all of the top generals, including Robert E. Lee, for treason. All lands belonging to former slave owners should have been confiscated and provided to the formerly enslaved blacks who worked those fields without pay. Martial law should have remained in effect for at least a century after hostilities ended to make sure that the descendants of the traitors were held in check.
But no, the North went all soft on its Southern brothers BECAUSE they were brothers; their white skin and common ancestry to old Europe provided the former traitors with the protection necessary to go back to business as usual as far as racism was concerned.
Indeed, within 20 years of the war’s end, the former Confederates were in complete control of politics in the south. New laws, later called “Jim Crow” laws, were enacted that relegated blacks to second class citizenship status. Other laws were created to prevent blacks from voting including the poll tax, literacy tests and grandfather clauses.
Perhaps the most sinister laws, however, dealt with crime, punishment and the right to vote. By the mid-1890’s, most southern states had developed laws that created felony offenses for loitering, theft and other non-violent crimes, thus allowing southern sheriffs to arrest black males on a whim or for standing idly by. Even more critically, these same states enacted laws that made being a convicted felon an automatic disqualifier for voting and holding elected office–a stain that remains fully in effect well into 2017.
We have been here before…
No matter how much newly freed blacks strove to educate themselves or to build schools and neighborhoods that thrived, Post-Reconstruction white folks were always one racist trumped-up reason away from lynching individual blacks or destroying whole cities on a whim. Why? Because to white folks, black folks were inferior beings that were not to be respected. This held true for the white lynch mobs who did the killing and race rioting, as well as the white folks who read what the mobs did in the Sunday newspaper and did nothing to stop the macabre events. That is why whenever I see some poorly educated white troll saying “Hobbs, you know the Ku Klux Klan was founded by Southern Democrats,” I lose patience with explaining the migration of racist Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in the 1960s because truth be told, the issue is not partisan politics, but patriarchal white supremacy which could and can be found in both major parties.
When I watched what happened in Charlottesville this weekend and the cable news commentary, some pundits suggested that the riots would have been less likely to occur under a President Hillary Clinton than President Donald Trump; I do not agree with this one bit. While one need look no further than former Klan leader David Duke’s reminder this weekend that the “alternative right” is pleased with President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims, the fact remains that even if Clinton had beaten Trump last November, the hatred of people of color that fueled white backlash against blacks Post-Reconstruction is the same that was on display this weekend Post-Barack Obama. Mrs. Clinton has no magic wand that could assuage the racist savage beast and even more critically, there is little even in Clinton or her husband’s record that suggests that they are willing to confront the far deeper issue, which is ending the inherent belief that white Judeo-Christian or “Western” culture is superior to other people, cultures and religions. For those doubting this point, I point back to how pissed the Clintons were when she lost to Obama in 2008–their inner racial superiority was on full display. While I can point this deeper issue out, only the white community, Republicans, Democrats and independents alike, can address this putrid, racist, bigoted legacy that has been passed down by their forebears.