Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Things Do Not Change: The Antebellum South and Present Day America

With the recent shooting in Charleston that was racially motivated, and the hatred for the fact that the Confederate flag still flies over the North Carolina state house I have seen a hatred of the South arise. A lot of folks feel that while only 1% of Southerners owned slaves in the Antebellum South, that the other 99% could have done something about it. They feel the 99% were guilty of complacency. They therefore feel that the Old South is something to be hated and reviled and that everything the South produced was somehow connected to slavery. The sad fact is the 99% that did not own slaves probably could not do anything to stop slavery, other than do things that we today are not willing to do. Those against slavery or who simply tolerated it simply did not have the money or political power to ban slavery, or felt they did not. In addition, they were encouraged by those in power and those in control of the media to think slavery was a necessary evil.

Think of it in today's terms and you will see what I mean. The Waltons, a member of today's 1% pay their workers such low wages that many of the workers have to go on welfare. Does that mean, that I, a member of today's 99% am to blame for that? No, as I am powerless to change it. Were I to run for office on a platform of raising wages I would lose no matter how popular my position may be simply because I do not have the wealth or political influence to do so. And while racism may have been common in the Antebellum South, hatred of the poor is pervasive in our society today. Why? Because the folks of the Antebellum South were told the slaves were subhuman, lazy, and without white masters would accomplish little. Similarly we are told today that the poor are lazy and always looking for a handout, content to live on the government dole.  Hating the poor is the racism of our age. Does the fact that many in the 99% hate the poor that I as a part of the 99% do also? No, I do not, I advocate for the poor. I am no different than the Southern Abolitionists of the pre-Civil War South who made a lot of noise, but could not change the system without outside help. The Antebellum South bore a striking resemblance to the United States of today. The politicians and businessmen guilty of keeping a system hurtful to the people were kept in power because the folk were told to hate a certain class of people, and that the system in place was a necessary evil which is what is happening to the people of the United States today. Those that do believe the poor are lazy and willing to stay on welfare have been manipulated to believe so by those in power and who control the media. In addition, like the Antebellum Southerns concerning slavery, we are told that low wages are a necessary evil, that wages must be kept low to keep prices of goods low.

How then are we to hate all things connected to the Old South when we as a people are guilty of the same sort of transgressions? If we are to do so, should we not also hate everything of our culture since we are guilty of the same type of transgressions? Further, hating the Old South and present day Southerners s is in and of its self a form of prejudice. To class a whole group of people, in this case the 99% that did not own slaves of the pre-Civil War South in a period when things were much different, who were unable to change the status quo is no different than creating a stereotype of Jews, Blacks, and other minorities. You are creating a stereotype of Southerners as ALL being a group of racists. It is in its own way a sort of bigotry. The fact is the 99% who did not own slaves in the Antebellum South were powerless to change the situation, were told the system was beneficial, while others like Sarah Moore Grimk√©, Moncure Conway, Jasper Collins, and their followers were even Abolitionists. There were reasons Southerners tolerated slavery, just as there were reasons many in the North of the time tolerated the Industrialists and their below the living wage. We do the same thing with allowing the Waltons and Koch brothers to do what they do. We are guilty of sins not much different than those of Antebellum Southern society.

To attempt a change in any society requires wealth and political power, and may mean putting our own livelihood at stake. It is true most Antebellum Southerners were probably racists, but so were many, many in the North. Many in both the North and South still are. Racism is by no means merely a Southern thing. There are good reasons Boston is sometimes called the most racist city. It is true they allowed the institution of slavery to exist. But is this no different than the myriad things that we allow to exist that benefit only a few, and hurt many. I mean we live in a nation that has gone through three wars just to make war profiteers wealthier, that keeps wages low so we do not have to pay ten cents more an item at the checkout line, who think a class of people are lazy. So who are we to judge the 99% of people that did not own slaves of the Antebellum South?

We allow a hurtful system to remain in power just as the 99% of the Antebellum South did. We keep voting into power men that support a system that hurts many, We still do business with businessmen that want to maintain the status quo. We like the pre-Civil War 99% are led to believe a group of people are lazy, We are guilty of the same sort of complacency they were. In closing, it is okay to hate the Confederacy, it is okay to hate slavery, but it is not okay to hate the South and all things Southern because of those things. There are many things the South produced worth preserving that had nothing to do with slavery such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights which the Bill of Rights were based in part on. There are the writings of the Southern Abolitionists such as Sarah Moore Grimké, Moncure Conway, and Jasper Collins. Not to mention Southern cuisine. If we are to discard everything connected to Southern culture simply because we feel the 99% were complacent then we are hypocrites of a great degree. They allowed a system to stay in place that was wrong just as we do.