Confronting Confederate Heritage is Necessary to Understand White SupremacyRoundup
tags: memorials, Confederacy, public history, Lost Cause
David Barber is Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Martin and author of A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why it Failed.
Many white Southerners insist that the Confederate flag they fly so proudly is not a symbol of hate, but a remembrance of, and pride in their heritage.
Unfortunately, Southern heritage, whatever anyone wishes it to be, is almost wholly the heritage of a society defined by slavery, a slaveowners’ society. Every day for nearly two and a half centuries, slaveowners, their overseers, slave traders, and even some poor whites, murdered, tortured and brutalized tens of thousands of human beings.
Every day, in this past symbolized by the Confederate flag, slave traders (like Tennessee’s still honored Nathan Bedford Forrest) ripped children out from their mothers’ arms, selling them away from each other. Might it be possible for whites to go about their daily business untroubled amid thousands of Black women and men inconsolably grieving for their lost children, and those children, weeping and wailing for their lost mothers and fathers?
How do you suppose our Confederate ancestors spiritually handled this mass of grief and pain played out in front of their eyes every day? How could they remain untouched by such terrible and continuous suffering? White Southerners could survive in this slave-owner society only by closing their hearts and willing themselves not to see, not to hear.
And so, generation after generation of white Southerners hardened their hearts that they might not hear the cries of these millions of human beings. Even unto the present generation.
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