have a question and I need a quick answer: Exactly what benefit
is derived from the commemoration of Confederate History Month?
Does it increase the standard of living for its celebrants, presumably
poor and working-class whites? Does it provide them better wages,
benefits and working conditions? I need to know…
Governor Bob McDonnell is teaching us the realities of the present-day
Republican Party. When you want to appeal to the ultra-Right base,
you’ll have to dabble in white supremacy, plain and simple. The
Governor issued a proclamation
in honor of Confederate History Month, “to understand the sacrifices
of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period
of the Civil War.” The original proclamation failed to mention slavery
even once. In response, McDonnell
said that “there were any number of aspects to that conflict
between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved
other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant
he issued a clarification,
with a revised proclamation stating that “the institution of slavery
led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived
people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians
are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders.” Mississippi
Governor and former RNC chair Haley Barbour - who recently characterized
himself as a “fat
redneck” - has drawn praise from the national chaplain of the
of the Confederate Veterans (SCV) for failing to mention slavery
in his state’s Confederate Heritage Month proclamation. By the way,
the SCV is a neo-Confederate group which, according to the Southern
Poverty Law Center, is dominated by radical
racists, and whose leaders are tied
to segregation and white supremacy.
to Barbour, this whole slavery flap isn’t worth “diddly”. And as
if to ignore the legacy of Jim Crow, McDonnell has brought back
test for nonviolent felons who want to restore their voting
once again I ask, why celebrate the Confederacy? McDonnell said
it would increase tourism for Virginia,
which I suppose is a valid reason if you plan to host a Klan convention.
Don’t get me wrong, I think we should learn as much as we can about
that important time in history. But these proclamations are not
the stuff of history buffs, antique collectors and Civil War re-enactors.
Rather, this is the glorification of slavery, domestic terrorism,
secession and treason.
invoke the Confederacy in 2010 is to throw a bone to disaffected
white voters. They are bitter and angry because they can’t make
ends meet, and rightly so. But their anger is misdirected. They
want their country back, and hope to return to the “good ol’ days”,
which was pretty horrible for minorities, women, the poor, and everyone
except for rich white WASPy dudes with connections. They’re angry
over all of these changes in society, with brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking
illegal immigrants coming into the country and taking all of the
good jobs picking fruit, washing dishes and busing tables. And of
course there’s that black Muslim-socialist-fascist president who
can’t find his birth certificate, and who made good on his promise
to slip black folks some reparations and
civil rights in the form of health care reform. Lord, have mercy.
the powerful always threw the bone to white folk of meager means,
and many of them took it and ran, even though it was against their
interests to do so. The Confederate soldiers who supposedly fought
and died so bravely did it to maintain a system of slavery that
kept themselves poor and dumb, and rendered their labor unnecessary.
But at least they were white, so they thought. They remained poor
during Jim Crow, but at least they could rally around the Confederate
flag, and against black people. And that flag was a tool used to
fight integration, civil rights, and the hopes and dreams of African-Americans.
It was no coincidence, for instance, that Georgia
added the stars and bars to their flag in 1956, after the 1954 Brown
Supreme Court decision. From the 1960s on, Dixiecrats went Republican
for the most part, and the GOP became the standard bearer for race
card politics with a winning Southern Strategy. Meanwhile, the party
of Lincoln - which once claimed over 1,500 black elected officials throughout
the nation - has been rendered a Southern-based white nationalist
party in the twenty-first century. Now that’s progress.
is where the tragic West
Virginia coal mine disaster comes in. “Low information” voters,
as they are called, get very little from the GOP aside from empty-calorie
values issues such as race, abort ion bans, gun rights and legalized
homophobia. Republican policies, with help from corporate Democrats,
have actually widened the gap between rich and poor since Reagan.
Inequality is now worse than it was right before the
Great Depression. Trickle-down economics has created a massive
redistribution of wealth, making
America far less socially mobile than those so-called socialist
European nations the teabag crowd so enthusiastically derides. A
big part of this bonanza for the rich has been deregulation. A Republican
utopia would be completely free from regulations because they stand
in the way of total profits, and the workers be damned. Massey Energy
- the company whose millions of dollars in safety violations led
to the recent West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers,
the worst such disaster in 40 years - gives 91
percent of its money to Republican candidates. Massey CEO Don
Blankenship said safety regulators are “as
silly as global warming,” and argued that the Mine Safety and
Health Administration “seeks power over coal miners.”
Republicans should spend more time caring about workplace safety
and the well being of people, rather than pander to their voters
with empty calories, nonsense values and racial hatred. These white
voters, to their detriment, have fallen for the okeedoke every time.
The challenge for progressives is to sustain a movement that welcomes
these poor and working-class whites, and shows them how to act in
their own economic self interests for a change.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist
and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor
to The Huffington
Post, theGrio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com,
Salon. Click here
to contact Mr. Love.