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History lesson on a T-shirt: But you don’t know your Confederate flag

confederate-flag-headerYou can’t have a good time at a county fair without somebody who doesn’t know history trying to give you a history lesson with their favorite Confederate flag T-shirt.

“If this flag offends you,” reads the text on the back of the shirt, the words emblazoned around an image of the flag, “then you need a history lesson.”

OK, I’ll bite, because I know how this will end. You’re wearing this shirt, you think you’re going to educate me about how the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights, implying that you know what states’ rights even means, but that’s another issue for another day.

Because we could start an awkward line of questioning beginning with, OK, what states’ rights were they trying to protect, and you’d shrug your shoulders and say, Um, you know, um, people up North are bigger racists than we are down South, and that would get nowhere.

So, to how the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Interesting thesis.

“It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States. The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”

This is from the South Carolina Declaration of Secession.

Nothing there about slavery as being a precipitating factor, eh?

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

This is from the Mississippi Declaration of Secession.

Interesting history lesson we’re having so far.

“A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution. While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen. The opposition to slavery was then, as now, general in those States and the Constitution was made with direct reference to that fact.”

This is from the Georgia Declaration of Secession, in which the word “slavery” appears 27 times, almost to the point of it being gratuitous.

“Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery – the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits – a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.’

This, obviously, is from the Texas Declaration of Secession.

I’ve more than belabored the point.

I’m just as proud a Southerner as you are, and when it comes down to it, I’d argue that I’m a prouder one, because I don’t identify my Southern-ness with those four years of racist, treasonous self-loathing from 150 years ago, but rather what the South has been moving toward for the past 50 years, with slow, but steady, progress toward racial harmony and economic equality.

That, plus William Faulkner, country music, pork barbecue, fried chicken and sweet tea, all good stuff there.

I’m not offended that you want to wear a Confederate flag T-shirt. You want to identify with a lost cause that was also an immoral lost cause, that’s on you.

What does offend me is you being holier-than-thou about something that you obviously know so little about.

– Column by Chris Graham

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