Here’s a question nobody is asking about the current debate over the propriety of taking down Confederate statues:
Haven’t we coddled the South enough?
It is bad enough we are asked to venerate, on public land, no less, people who took up arms against this country – who killed Americans – in defense of the right to hold slaves. But what people don’t often discuss is that this is all part of a very long history of the rest of us being asked to defer to white Southern and/or socially conservative sensibilities on matters of race.
This dates back to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave owner, was required to strike out a passage condemning slavery because the Southern colonies objected.
And thus, a pattern was set. You saw in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the presidency in a disputed election on the condition that he withdraw from the South federal troops that had been defending African-American rights, property and lives.
You saw it in 1943 when white Southerners rioted rather than obey an Executive Order desegregating the defense industry and the federal government quietly declined to enforce its own rule.
When the Supreme Court struck down segregation in interstate travel in 1946, the South ignored the ruling and federal government again looked the other way.
Perhaps most tragically: with dozens of black people being lynched every year, the Senate declined to pass anti-lynching legislation for fear of offending Dixie.
One is hard pressed to find examples of government worrying overmuch about offending African-Americans.
It is not incidental that the two times in history the South did something it did not want to do where race was concerned – the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement – force was required. And even then, the region howled and resisted long after the matter had been putatively settled.
So one looks with a jaundiced eye at the resistance that has risen as municipalities across the country ponder taking down statutes that were only erected in the first place as monuments to white supremacy. The people clinging to those statues – and to the soiled battle flag that too often accompanies it – are not just bigots and supporters thereof. They are also whiners, forever trying to blackmail the rest of this country into embracing a vision and version of itself that should have been retired many decades ago.
Since 1776, it seems like every time adherents to the Lost Cause have cried, America has given in. It would be nice if we said no for a change.