Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Veterans- Black & White... and mutual respect

In the early 1900s, Confederate soldiers were respected within their community, some of them still wore their uniforms on occasion, even though it was against federal law. Authorities never did anything about it because these were old guys simply proud of their military service. Some veterans were responsible for the the Klan and Jim Crow, others of them advocated for the improvement of social conditions for African Americans. The point is, their War and their racial views were two different things.

Unlike the racist demonstrations of the 50s and 60s, many confederate veterans accepted their black compatriots as equal members. The horrors of war altered the mentality of these men and consequently, the white soldiers' views of African Americans as well. One of my ancestors spent two years in a POW camp... ALONGSIDE black confederate soldiers. There are photos of black and white confederate soldiers together at reunions. Unlike the North, their soldier's pay was the same. Also unlike the North, they marched together in parades. According to a foreign visitor to the U.S. ...

So the Negro [in the North] is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death.

In the South, where slavery still exists, less trouble is taken to keep the Negro apart: they sometimes share the labors and the pleasures of the white men; people are prepared to mix with them to some extent; legislation is more harsh against them, but customs are more tolerant and gentle. -Alexis De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America", Harper & Row, 1966, p.343.

There is no question that the South deserved its racist reputation. But at the same time there were acts of kindness that crossed racial barriers, anti-slavery activism, and social support for former slaves- all on the part of native Southerners and Confederate veterans with the full understanding that racism damaged the moral and economic foundations of their home. The shame of it is that these important facts of history are conveniently ignored. Why? Because it is important to someone's politics that the South was about slavery, SO important that our educators willingly capitulate and go the extra mile to restrict students' access to certain historical facts. We must make sure our students graduate with an opinion that was predetermined for them. I appeal to anyone reading this to explain to me how this lack of academic integrity is justified.

Anecdote from a friend in Tennessee: it is the confederate descendants who are responsible for researching and finding lost African American cemeteries and placing grave markers. All this, but with no help because it is politically incorrect for NAACP to collaborate with confederate descendants on community projects, even when they are preserving and honoring African American heritage. I know, I have walked these once-lost graves myself.

The Confederate descendants' organization (SCV) has a strict policy against racist activity within its membership. The website of a Texas SCV chapter says:

... many SCV members are descendants of African-American, Catholic, Jewish, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian Confederates. The contributions of these groups to Southern culture have made it a beautiful and unique region. To deny their descendants membership in our organization would betray our principles and the very ancestors we honor.

From a Tennessee confederate website:

This site was created for true Southern Patriots to enjoy and learn about our history and heritage. Anyone belonging to tthe various hate groups, white supremacists or others who
demonstrate bigotry toward any race, creed or religion, are not welcome and forbidden to link to these pages.

We are True Southern Patriots and resent our symbols of Southern pride being musused and misrepresented by groups sush as he Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and all others whose objectives are not for the remembrance of the South.

Organizations such as those listed above have done more to harm the Southern cause than any other group.


cenantua said...

I don't say this to criticize, but I am guessing you are using a later edition (1966?) of De Tocqueville. For those who are unfamiliar with the work, you may find it useful to mention that the book was originally published in 1863.

Also, some of your views are intriguing and you make some good points regarding some misguided views coming FROM contemporary Southerners as well as those that come from others focused ON Southerners (aka stereotypes). I, for one, abhore the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" perception held by some on the South and Southerners.

Please, keep on. I'll be following with interest. - Robert Moore

Justin said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for point out the edition info. Sometimes small differences in editions of a book can put things in a slightly different light.