Historian Peter S. Carmichael says that the debate about Confederate statues is obscuring what we should be talking aboutHistorians in the News
tags: Civil War, Confederate Monuments, Peter S Carmichae
As the debate over taking down Confederate monuments continues to rage on, a question inevitably emerges from the intense debate:
Is the Civil War really over?
To find answers, Salon spoke with Peter S. Carmichael, director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. In the course of that conversation, Carmichael observed that not only have the core elements of the Civil War continued to divide our society in the 152 years since the war supposedly ended, but that even well-intentioned people on the left aren’t doing their part to effectively address those issues.
“Racial attitudes have always been there and they take on different forms and different expressions, so we can’t ever speak of a single expression of white supremacy,” Carmichael pointed out. After observing that Trump’s presidency has led to a heightened awareness among the left about various types of racial discrimination, he noted that they have been blinded by their rage against Trump and the alt-right into missing larger and more important issues.
“Being able to identify and address the origins of inequality across racial and class lines. specifically what happened in Charlottesville — there are a few hundred Klansmen from across the country, including Nazis and other members of the alt-right — despicable people who used a Confederate monument as a stage,” Carmichael said. “That message needs to be rebutted and refuted at every point.”
He added, “What unfortunately happened was that the press unwittingly, with elements of the left, brought attention to this group and conflated their agenda, their objectives, with Confederate history. So what we have now is a failure now to understand and recognize the source of discrimination in housing, the denial of black political rights, the inhumane treatment of young black American men in our prison system.
“Those issues should be front and center. Those issues, though, have been pushed aside while people feel this great rage toward Trump. But in their rage, in their hate, they have been blinded to the sources of inequality in our capitalist society.”
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