Thoughts on the Great War for equality in America


Stolen from my Facebook page:

People's eyes tend to gloss over when I start talking about history. I'm sure part of that comes from how I present the subject, as I tend to bounce around like I'm riding a time machine to point out how later developments undermined or enhanced notable historical events. Guilty as charged. But I feel it's important to not view these events as "closed" chapters, because that almost always leads to false assumptions.

Take the Civil War, for example: That event (or series of) should be viewed as merely a battle in a centuries-long war for racial equality, in not just our country, but the entire Northern Hemisphere, to be completely accurate. And that war continues to this day.

Just a side note, but intrinsically related: Just a few hours after my recent Op-Ed was published about erecting a monument to a former slave who was lynched in downtown Graham, I was contacted by a local playwright about forming a committee to pursue this goal. We met Wednesday and were joined by a local historian and a member of the clergy deeply interested in racial equality, and we are determined to make this happen. I'll keep you posted. Back to the boring lecture:

The Union may have won the War against the Confederacy, but it subsequently lost its influence over the South when Reconstruction fell apart. And a big reason that failed was due to lack of concern for and squabbles about the rights of newly-freed slaves. It took almost another century before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and to this day, you will still find anti-government conservatives who opine that law was not needed; things were just fine or would fix themselves.

The war for equality is not over, by any stretch of the imagination, and if you allow yourself to be pulled into a neutral, "both sides make good points" or "both sides are equally wrong" position, you may help create another century of two Americas; one where rights are taken for granted, and one where rights seem to be only a myth. That neutrality may feel comfortable, but nobody ever said freedom and liberty were easy to achieve and maintain.

I've heard many people complain that the resurgence of White Supremacy is the result of faulty, white-washed history, as is taught in most Southern schools. While this may be true, it is not really those neo-Nazi alt-right groups that are the danger. The real crime of that pseudo-history is the indifference exhibited by the vast middle ranks of white society. They haven't been exposed to the truth. Not really. Sure, they might believe slavery was bad, and the Civil War was a necessary evil to end that scourge. But they know very little about the decades following the Civil War, the oppression and brutality that African-Americans had to live with for so long.

That's one (big) reason I want to erect this monument in Graham. People are aware that lynchings happened, but many of them think that was mostly in Mississippi or other notoriously racist enclaves. They need to see that it happened right here, right on this spot, in a place they have casually strolled by countless times without knowing it. And maybe then, if we're lucky, they will realize there are some missing chapters in their own personal sense of place, that they are actually part of this struggle for equality, even if they didn't know it before. And they need to decide which side of that struggle they want to be on, and whether they can be proud of that choice or not.