Ben Carson, Dred Scott, and Historical Memory

Today is the 160th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision … you know, where Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared in his opinion that African Americans …

had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.

Almost as if to commemorate this event, what did Ben Carson, the incoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, tell his new colleagues today?

That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

Ah, yes. Enslaved people as immigrants looking to come to a land of opportunity for their descendants. They would work longer (and for a long time), to be sure, and harder, and for far less … as in no wages. In many cases, they would be torn away from husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children, so that they would never know what happened to sons and daughters, let alone other generations down the line. Black women would be raped by white men and offspring would come of such violence.

Yes, these people dreamed of freedom. Recall the folks who wanted to deny them that freedom in 1860 … and how they continued to do so after 1865.

Then again, as we’ve been told by one famous Confederate heritage apologist, slavery was, after all, a choice.

I can’t wait for those whiny blogs that bemoan “political correctness” and proclaim that they are committed to historical accuracy and truth to get on this one. What, you say … those principled folks won’t do that? I wonder why?

Heritage, not history … has gone mainstream.

As for Dred and Harriet Scott, here’s a statue of them outside the very courthouse in St. Louis where they gained their freedom:

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Let’s honor the cause for which they fought, and pray that it never becomes a lost cause.

On Civil War Monuments: The Controversy Continues

This weekend the American Civil War Center in Richmond, Virginia, held an all-day symposium entitled “Lightning Rods of Controversy: Civil War Monuments Past, Present, and Future.” Co-sponsored by the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia and The Library of Virginia, the symposium reviewed the issues associated with Civil War monuments in a city well known for them. Christy Coleman of the ACWC offered opening remarks in a presentation entitled “Monuments, Markers, Museums, and the Landscape of Civil War Memory.”

You can find the presentation here.

It is not altogether true that the only controversies about Civil War monuments involve Confederate monuments. Some people were very unhappy with this monument, for example:

Others opposed placing a monument to Union soldiers who fought at Olustee, Florida, as you may recall (you may also recall that many of the US soldiers who fought there were African American). You can refresh your memory here, here, and here.

But you won’t find anything about that in various Confederate heritage apologist advocates’ blogs, especially the ones that rant about fake news and political correctness. What you will hear, however, is how a local community that erected these monuments can’t decide to remove them, lest they “erase history”–when the only history their removal might “erase” is why people chose to put up those monuments when and where they did.

That’s one reason why I think those monuments should stay up–to remind people of their past, sometimes in ways that might not make them comfortable. But I remain amused at people who think that the members of a community should make their own decisions, who protest against meddlesome outsiders and “moral reformers,” who nevertheless have no problem telling other people how to live and what to honor. Get over yourselves or embrace your hypocrisy.

The Butternut Buttercups Strike Again With Fake History

In a world where alternative facts and fake news rule the day, Confederate heritage apologists feel right at home, as the latest from Virginia Whine Country suggests:

It is stunning to observe the extent to which modern historians moral reformers will go to advance their political agenda under the guise of “historical analysis” these days. Their Gumby-like stretches and contortions are jaw-dropping – an intellectual version of being double-jointed. Prior to November 9th, 2016, they all marched in lockstep denouncing any state or local community that dared oppose federal intervention, meddling or what might be looked upon as “heavy-handed” regarding laws, regulations and executive orders.

So stunning, in fact, that I’d love to see some evidence to support this claim–from this blog, for example. Perhaps this butternut buttercup is unaware of the discussion surrounding federal fugitive slave legislation, personal liberty laws, resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Ableman v. Booth, and the like. Or maybe someone was too busy examining the Bowling Green Massacre to notice.

Constructing fantastic bogus strawmen in order to make sweeping ridiculous claims is characteristic of Virginia Whine Country. Doubtless his millions of readers–almost as many as attended Donald J. Trump’s inauguration–believe as much.

Wow, what a difference a day can make. Miraculously, the day after Donald J. Trump (who many are, ironically, comparing to Andrew Jackson) won the presidential election, they became staunch defenders of John Calhoun’s principles of nullification. Perhaps the faux historians have traded their copies of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for a copy of Thomas Woods’s Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century.

Ah, no. One of the usual bogus claims (important for a blogger who traffics daily in stereotypes) is that academic historians worship Zinn … although you would think this butternut buttercup would embrace Thomas Woods’s work (because he has). Of course, this ranting and raving overlooks resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, but then some of these folks are notorious for having a blind spot when it comes to slavery or African Americans. Then there are those who remind us that slavery was not all that bad … and that civilization’s achievements are due to white people.

Of course, the current brand of nullification is mostly local, i.e. cities and counties in lieu of states; as far as President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees goes. Whereas for the last eight years, the Tea Party, libertarians, conservative Republicans and anyone else opposing federal power was labeled “radical, extremist, neo-Confederate”, blah, blah, blah, we are now being told that any and all opposition to federal power is noble and courageous. And these folks are all in lockstep (including the violent protest participants on college campuses and the “mainstream” media). Just peruse the academic related history websites and blogs. No dissent, no difference of opinion, no nuances, no objectivity – pure partisanship. It’s laughable.

Peruse away, and show me where this blog has been part of that process. Because it’s incumbent upon someone who whines about “Fake Civil War Historians” to document that he’s telling the truth. Otherwise one might conclude that they sure lie a lot over at Virginia Whine Country, and that someone buries the truth so deep that it will take more than a metal detector to unearth it.

Who’s laughing now?

If the State of California follows through with it’s threat to institute sanctuary status state-wide, I wonder if these pretend historians will suddenly become converts to advocating for states’ rights?

First, critic of educational systems, it’s its. Try harder. Then wonder away as you wander away from reality once more. After all, you’ll pretend that the people you despise must believe what you insist they believe. Otherwise, your blog would shrink to nothingness.

That’s what happens when you live rent-free in someone’s head. There’s a lot of open space there, after all. I hear it’s a wonderful echo chamber due to its emptiness.

These historians are, obviously, absolute frauds and little more than mouth organs for the left. There is no consistency in their writing or analysis – other than to be consistent leftists. Laugh at them. They are not historians in the true sense. They are unprincipled political hacks and adherents to Groupthink; unable or afraid to think, say or write anything outside of current academic high church orthodoxy.

Sigh. In a world where alternative facts reign supreme in the minds of some people, only someone who knows all about being a mouth organ would make such a claim to satisfy his rich fantasy life. But methinks this fellow projects a little too much, given that the majority of his blog entries are little more than thin commentaries on right of center links–basically a virtual bulletin board. It would be interesting to see whether he actually reads the scholarship that he thus characterizes. Maybe alternative facts free him of that obligation.

I appreciate the desperation masquerading as smugness. I also appreciate the degree to which Virginia Whine Country uses what passes for Confederate heritage nowadays to promote his own political agenda. I await the next rant about political correctness from the safe space of this butternut buttercup.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bring the thunder.

Frederick Douglass Is Making a Comeback

One way to make America great again is by recognizing the greatness in America’s past. Of course, some people continue to do a great job, according to President Donald J. Trump:

Press secretary Sean Spicer elaborated as only he can:

I await the usual protests of political correctness from Virginia Whine Country. Fake history? Yup. Not that it bothers him (perhaps because it’s about a black person? Perhaps because he doesn’t know it’s fake?). His concerns are different. As he has admitted: “I’ve been ranting and raving about rampant leftist indoctrination and political correctness in American colleges and universities for over 10 years now.” Ranting and raving … someone’s applying to be a spokesperson for the new administration, although that would force him to emerge from his safe space (note the silence about Trump’s prattling about the theater as a safe space).

Toughen up, butternut buttercup. You can dish it out, but boy, you can’t take it.

Another Oops by the Virginia Flaggers

You’ll notice that I haven’t had much to say about the Virginia Flaggers lately. That’s because they’ve become boring, and that means they have lost their entertainment value, at least for me. That doesn’t mean they don’t continue to deny that they associate with certain people that their own social media demonstrates are their close friends, etc.

I suggest that if you want to follow such stories, you start visiting Restoring the Honor, which keeps track of various stories that don’t reflect well on the Flaggers, especially it comes to the people with whom they associate (even as they vigorously deny as much).

Otherwise, things haven’t changed much. Connie Chastain continues to cackle away, and the Flaggers continue on their merry way, even getting a mention in a New York Times article about recent events in Lexington, Virginia, where the Flaggers journeyed to feed their hot dog habit in honor of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I especially liked the composition of the following photograph:

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Courtesy New York Times

Nice juxtaposition, don’t you think?

I’m waiting for the usual suspects to Photoshop that out, too. Maybe they’ll replace it with an image of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. That’s the only way Hathaway can appear there, flag pole in hand.

Hathaway sounded a sour note when she reflected on the dour prospects that faced her cause:

“We are losing this war on a lot of fronts,” she said. “And folks, if we don’t learn to come alongside of people who might look a little different than us, who might have a different way of doing things, and find ways that we can work together like we did today, we’re not going to get very far.”

Maybe she was pretending to be a member of the Confederate Congress in early 1865 when it debated whether to allow slaves to become Confederate soldiers.

Now, as we all know, one of the ways in which the Virginia Flaggers declare success is by raising a new Confederate battle flag, take pictures of it, and say it’s a sign of progress. They did exactly that this past weekend.

Except, it seems, that this time they violated several local ordinances. If they don’t remedy the situation in 45 days, “there will be penalties.”

Oops.

Maybe Tripp Lewis can hand over some of the proceeds from his legendary legal defense fund to help out, now that his drone business is up and running.

James A. Garfield’s Black Confederates

It amuses me when people who claim to be familiar with my writings claim that I have asserted that there were no African Americans in Confederate service, and that none donned the uniform of a Confederate soldier. Such claims reflect poorly on their ability as researchers and call into question their own interpretations of historical evidence.

So let me complicate their lives still more. On May 27, 1862, James A. Garfield, an officer attached to the headquarters of the 20th Brigade, wrote home to his beloved wife Crete about Jim, an African American who had come into his lines the previous January 10 at the conclusion of the battle of Middle Creek, Kentucky. I’ll let Garfield tell the tale:

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Note that Jim was the servant of an officer, but that when Garfield encountered him, he was in uniform and carrying a weapon. Would that make him a deserter? A prisoner? Or simply a fugitive slave?

You can find this letter on page 102 of Frederick D. Williams, ed., The Wild Life of the Army: Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1964).

And that’s not all. The following March Garfield told his wife that at the battle of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, on March 5, 1863, it “appears that the rebels had two Negro regiments against us in that fight.” It would be interesting to see whether the Confederate generals at that engagement, including Earl Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest, made mention of those regiments, which would have been cavalry regiments.

Enjoy a happy new year.

All In A Day’s Work

Last month, in the wake of the presidential election, a reporter for CNN.com asked me to comment on the argument that explanations of Donald J. Trump’s victory that tended to emphasize the role of racism, sexism, and other expressions of prejudice in accounting for the Republican success in the Electoral College might soon give way to another narrative that closely resembled what the writer terms the Lost Cause explanation of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

That piece, with my small contribution, appears here.

To be sure, I think an explanation of Trump’s triumph that rests primarily on charges of racism, sexism, and so on in the American electorate is incomplete and flawed. There were plenty of reasons why Trump defeated first his Republican primary challengers and then Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The list is too long to discuss in exhaustive fashion, but one can focus on Trump’s successful appeal to a sense of grievance, Clinton’s campaign management, the ways in which Vermont senator Bernie Sanders exposed weaknesses in the Clinton appeal that proved useful to Trump, and so on. In critical states Trump’s emphasis on jobs and attack on globalization, open borders, and free trade struck a chord with voters, much to the surprise of Democratic strategists and more than a few pundits who never quite saw what was coming. When asked to predict the outcome, I thought that Clinton’s win would be far narrower than some people were predicting, and events in the last week of the campaign suggested to me that there was cause for worry in key states. Trump ran the table in critical battleground states, and the (perceived) upset was complete.

Nor do I think that all of Trump’s supporters are racists, sexists, homophobes, white supremacists, or whatever. That’s nonsense and a poor way for Democrats to try to explain away defeat. That said, to deny that people who are open (and not so open) about being racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist, and so on flocked to Trump in large numbers is hard to deny (we’ve covered several of them in this blog). Nor is it easy to deny that many Trump supporters who proclaim that they do not share such attitudes and who resent being cast into a basket of deplorables (a turn of phrase that rightly came back to haunt Clinton as an example of stupid and mindless elitism) have remained rather quiet about signs that some people who have expressed what many find to be bigoted views have risen to places of power and influence in the incoming administration. One does not have to be a bigot to be complicit in bigotry, and those folks will find themselves in increasingly uncomfortable situations if they are sincere about what they believe … or maybe they haven’t been so sincere in the first place. We’ll see.

But, in this season of greetings and giving, I share with you a note I received less than an hour after I was notified that CNN.com had posted the piece:

You must not have a whole lot of niggers living out there in Arizona near you because back east these devils rob, shoot, kill, rape and destroy just about most of our communities in our portion of the country. They make life hell for not only the majority here in America but also themselves. They have no idea why they do the things they do, let me fill you in mr. social scientist, it’s millions of years of instinct with this race! No one anywhere in the world over pays them any mind in the civilized world and nor do they allow them to have any say in government or rule of law in any other country than the USA and with good reason. Their own people sold them into slavery to begin with. I don’t hate them nor anybody for that matter, I just really pity them but myself unlike people like you living in only the bubble of the USA think that we as a nation need to sell our future down the drain to temporarily appease them. You need to take in reality and look long term, not what is going on right now, the latest fad or the next few years. CNN is shit hole and can’t be trusted with anything real to begin with, it’s a propaganda channel that drives an agenda for the elite, the elite’s kids star on their show. 

Stop hating yourself and start standing up for the majority in this nation. You leave anything to the africans and civilization ceases to exist! So, when you apply a label to ME, please remember to label me as a “REALIST” They don’t want to hear the truth but the truth is they are subversive and slowly but surely destroy America. I have no problem with Latino people nor any other race of people on the planet, they are an asset to our nation! They work and they take care of their families, two things niggers don’t do at all and their instinctual, primitive behaviors are the driving factors to the plethora of their problems. One would think they own NO mirrors as they could then look into them to see where their problems come from? I use the word “nigger” as this is what these people call each other.

MY FREE SPEECH!

Rarely has someone so effectively made the point about the beliefs of some Trump supporters as in this note.

I do resent being called a social scientist, although I have used the social sciences in my work. And, please, it’s Dr. Social Scientist, if you must call me such.

I’ve always thought that such rants are evidence that proponents of white supremacy are actually insecure folks who fear that they are examples of inferiority, as indeed they are. So be it. I guess they acknowledge that they need white supremacy to survive.