April in Mississippi is Confederate Heritage Month.
Because white Mississippi lawmakers aren’t just losers but losers so committed to loserdom as to be utterly unable to get over the ass-kicking their great-great-great Grandpappy Beauregard received at the hands of Union forces more than a century and a half ago.
Because despite having more Black elected officials than any other state, those officials are empowered mainly at the local level in a handful of locales, and the real political power structure in Mississippi remains firmly in the hands of white folks.
And not just any white people, but the kinds of white people who still look upon their segregationist forbears fondly and would have Black folks forget about slavery while they cling to the Confederacy like a heroin addict clings to a needle.
But aside from the pathetic-ness of their nostalgia — yearning for the past is the signature move of those for whom everything went pretty much downhill after they turned 18 — it’s the white supremacy we need to discuss.
Because there is no such thing as “Confederate Heritage” separate and apart from that.
White supremacy — and that alone — is the animating force of the breakaway government being commemorated by Mississippians this month.
Please understand: Southern heritage is one thing, but Confederate Heritage is quite another.
The former stretches back hundreds of years and extends unbroken into the present. It is a heritage enriched by the Scots-Irish, but also by the region’s Indigenous persons and Africans brought against their will. The latter group, it should be noted, includes some who were abandoned off the coast of South Carolina even before most of our European ancestors made the journey.
So too has Southern culture been enhanced by Jewish immigrants who planted roots in Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Charleston, by Latino folk, and by Southeast Asian communities that formed in the Nashville of my youth after 1975.
Southern heritage is fluid, evolving, and dynamic.
Confederate heritage is fixed in time.
It represents a mere four years of history — barely enough to develop a Bachelor’s Degree, let alone a “heritage” worth commemorating.
The Confederacy was always about one thing. And they told everyone at the time what it was.
Back then, they didn’t feel the need to bullshit the world about their motivation, because they were proud to proclaim it.
Alexander Stephens, the Confederate Vice-President, made it very clear. He said that:
Then, contrasting the Confederacy with the national government and the thinking of its founders, Stephens noted that although Jefferson and others tolerated enslavement, they considered it a moral evil that would eventually fade away because, at root, they presumed the equality of the races.
But, as Stephens explained:
And to be even more precise, Stephens stressed that, unlike other systems that had allowed and encouraged oppression based on class, irrespective of race, the Confederacy would take care to elevate all whites, no matter how lowly, above all Blacks. As he explained:
In other words, the Confederacy was not merely racist, not merely anti-Black, but fundamentally white supremacist to the core.
These were full-on Nazis before Nazis were a thing.
To celebrate Confederate Heritage is to celebrate that system and its animating mentality because, without it, there is no Confederacy — no “heritage” or history to commemorate at all.
Such a commemoration is an obvious insult to Black people, who have called the South their home for as long or longer than most whites.
But it’s also an insult to those white Southerners who have long opposed the white supremacy on which the Confederacy staked its purpose.
It insults the memory of Southern abolitionists like John Fee and Moncure Conway. It spits in the face of white southerners who stood against Jim Crow and joined the civil rights struggle — people like Bob Zellner, Virginia Foster Durr, Anne Braden, Will Campbell, and many others.
It conflates a deep and meaningful Southern culture — rich with music, literature, food, and a linguistic lyricism all its own — with a nefarious enterprise dedicated to the ownership and perpetual subordination of other human beings and nothing else.
All decent Southerners should be offended by the confusion, by the mistaking of one for the other.
To not take offense at Confederate Heritage Month as a white Southerner is to accept the suggestion that your heritage is one of racist iniquity — a moral blot on the region’s soul and your own.
And if a Yankee tried to tell you that, you’d come to blows over it.
But white lawmakers in Mississippi can insist upon it year after year, and you’ll just smile and take it.
Or worse, say amen.
That version of Southern pride is counterfeit.
It’s a psychological balm for losers.
Losers like the men who fought for an ignoble cause.
Losers like their progeny who still honor them despite the grotesque purpose for which they gave their lives.
Perhaps one day, Mississippi will enter the 21st, or at least the 20th century.
But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
This post was previously published on Tim Wise’s blog.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|Escape the Act Like a Man Box||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men||Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race||The First Myth of the Patriarchy: The Acorn on the Pillow|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock