Honouring Racism????

You remember the “Unite the Right” fiasco in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017?  The rally was organized by a large number of different groups, mainly white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  People died, more were injured, some beaten up, others injured when a car plowed into a group of people.  And remember in the aftermath, when Donald Trump said there were good people on both sides?  That rally was in protest of plans to remove a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.

In the days following Charlottesville, Confederate  statues began falling:  activists in Durham, North Carolina, used ropes to tear down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the city’s former courthouse; authorities in Baltimore moved to take down the city’s Confederate monuments; and the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where state law prohibits the removal of a Confederate monument from a city park, ordered it covered up with plastic.

Confederate statues are a source of great controversy, as some claim they are a valuable part of U.S. history, while others say they enshrine evil – the evil that was slavery.  Some accuse those who want the statues removed of attempting to “wipe out any pride Southerners should have in their heritage.”  Trump argued that the removal of these monuments amounted to “changing history,” adding, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week?”; then later, tweeting that “the history and culture of our great country” are “being ripped apart” by those who wish to see the monuments gone.

There remain some 1,500 memorials to the Confederacy around the nation today.  One such is a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands 25 feet high and depicts Forrest on a horse, shooting behind himself, flanked by Confederate battle flags.  The sculptor of the statue is Jack Kershaw—who is primarily known for defending the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.  The statue is located in Nashville, Tennessee, in plain sight of Interstate Highway 65.  Since it is located on private property, it cannot be removed by state or county officials, and efforts to use landscaping to obscure it from view have failed. Forrest statue.jpegLet me tell you just a bit about Nathan Bedford Forrest …

Forrest was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War.  On April 12, 1864, he led the Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre, at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee.  Fort Pillow was an African-American Union fort, and even thought the troops surrendered, they and their families who were residing within the fort were brutally tortured and murdered.  The total deaths were estimated at 350, including women and children, and there were almost as many injured or captured.

Nathan_B._Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Then in 1867, after the conclusion of the Civil War, Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a position he would hold for two years.  The Klan, with Forrest at the lead, suppressed voting rights of blacks and Republicans in the South through violence and intimidation during the elections of 1868.  Near the end of his life, he denied his role in the Fort Pillow Massacre, and claimed he had never been a member of the KKK, but his words are proven to be lies in the annals of history.

So why, you ask, am I giving you a history lesson today?  Because yesterday, the State of Tennessee celebrated the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  It is bad enough to have a statue of a Confederate figure, but to celebrate a man who was responsible for the deaths of African-Americans solely because their skin is dark … that, my friends, is an abomination.

Bill-Lee

Governor Bill Lee

In 1921, a state representative named John Travis of Henry County, Tennessee, got a bill passed marking the 100th birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and every year since, the state’s governor has signed a proclamation to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”.  This year was no exception, and current Governor Bill Lee signed the proclamation on Thursday.

Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for whom I have more pity than respect, spoke against honouring a man who should have been tried as a war criminal …

“This is WRONG. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring him. Change the law.”

proclamation.jpgMy friend Herb tells me that I am too critical of the South.  Things like this might explain why.  Racism is alive and well all over the United States, but in most places it simmers beneath the surface, while in the South, they embrace it, they are proud of the heritage of slavery, proud to be the home of the KKK.  Sorry, folks, it’s time to change the law that honours a slave trader, murderer and racist extraordinaire.  You won’t find statues honouring Adolf Hitler in Germany, nor will you find a day dedicated to honouring his memory there.

We cannot forget the shameful past of this nation, nor should we.  But we do not have to celebrate it!

57 thoughts on “Honouring Racism????

  1. In New Zealand it’s sometimes difficult to understand the depths of feelings over such issues as you have in America. But here we now have a weird sort of ‘backlash’ of white guilt—as if the taking over of these islands was actually some manner of disservice to humanity. (It was not.)

    It isn’t exactly illegal in NZ (yet~!) to mention that before the white man brought his laws to these islands all was brute force, savagery, and cannibalism. Fact.
    None of your ‘noble savage’ either — the tribes rampaged and the stronger enslaved the weaker—took their women, souvenired heads and gobbled the corpses. Not pretty at all … I still have here (somewhere) a book written by a pioneer woman in which mention is made of a neighbour calling in and advising her “Don’t go outside for a while, stay in and close your windows—they’re cooking heads out there …”

    A man whom I think is part Maori/Pakeha (Barry Brailsford) wrote a book called “The Song of the Waitaha” (which when I tried to peruse it at the Invercargill library I literally had to jump through hoops) (the first time. After that they knew me and that as it was listed as being available I wouldn’t give up. Now, no problem.)

    Maori, Pakeha, wotever … it’s all about achieving the status of unique special privilege. For yourself and related group.
    But there should be no unearned special privilege?

    Yet despite all protestations to the contrary … that seems exactly what everyone wants, for himself, and to hell with the rest. No?

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  2. They just can’t let it go Jill. They know the country is changing, but these guys will fight for every last bit of white domination that they can. It’s so pathetic. Totally agree….change the damn law!!

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    • I’ve tried hard to understand the mentality, to understand why there is this arrogance among certain groups of Caucasians, and … I’ve read several explanations, but still … I don’t understand the mentality! Apparently I am missing some gene or something … it’s getting so old … yes, change the damn law and bust up every damn one of those statues!

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    • What’s really interesting about that is that there were other, much more flattering statues of him, but those have been taken down, while this hideous thing still stands. Personally, if I lived near there, I would be sorely tempted to sneak out there some night and blow it up. Actually, I read that a few years back, some vandals spray-painted it pink!
      Cwtch

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  3. Jill, Leonard Pitts wrote a editorial this week along a similar vein. His target was a holocaust denier who said it was a belief not a fact and should be taught as such. Sadly, he was an assistant principal before he was fired for making holocaust teaching optional.

    We cannot let people “whitewash” history, a purposefully chosen verb. The settlers in the US committed genocide on the indigeneous people as they took their land. Slaves were treated as property and treated as poorly as the owner wanted to. Jim Crow continued the genocide against African-Americans following the political agreements made in the 1880s that reempowered southern white citizens to garner their votes.

    Even today, while far better, the echo of racism is getting louder as white nationalists feel empowered. I have heard words from the president that I thought I would ever hear again. The words remind me of Alabama Governor George Wallace who ran unsuccessfully for president.

    These things happened and we must shine a spotlight on the evil that was perpetrated in the name of fear. Fear is strategy of authoritarians like the person who occupies the White House. Keith

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      • PS – I used to play basketball and baseball in high school against Forrest High School. It wasn’t until later I learned it eas named for the KKK leader you note above. The students protested and they changed the name.

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        • Really? Interesting … thanks! It’s good to know that a) the students understood the history and protested, and b) the powers-that-be were willing to listen to the students and make the change.

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          • Jill, the racial mix of the school change. I must confess my first notice of the namesake was during the movie “Forrest Gump.” It was like isn’t that the name of the high school….? Keith

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    • My jaw dropped when I read your first paragraph. An assistant principal! How can anyone deny what is documented in both documents, both written and oral, and photos? HOW??? And somebody smart enough to become an assistant principal in a school???

      Yes, I feel the drums beating louder these days, and Trump is handing out the drumsticks. Like you, I am appalled by some of the things he says, such as calling for four freshman members of Congress of Middle Eastern descent (3 were born in this country) to go back to their countries of origin. I was actually surprised that he didn’t tweet yesterday about Nathan Bedford Forrest day, for it is just the sort of thing he likes.

      We need a change of attitude in this nation, and I don’t know how it is going to come about. We need a leader with vision instead of prejudice, a uniter instead of a divider. I don’t see that person, not even among the hoard of candidates in the Democratic Party, do you? Sigh.

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  4. Remember, but never celebrate the horrors of genocide in what ever form it takes. The killing of others based on prejudices is abhorrent and a twisted manifestation in the Human psyche. Statues are false (fake news, propaganda) … Real hero’s never want to be immortalised in a hunk of inorganic material. Statues are nearly always erected by those who wish to follow an idea of what that person represented to them.

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    • No doubt that is true. I cannot imagine a sculptor spending all those hours of work to erect a statue out of hate, so it seems that their very existence must represent evil. There are other ways to remember the past. The teaching of history in schools would be a great start, but we seem to do far too little of that these days.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m prejudiced against Islam.
      The more I learn of it the more prejudiced I become. I would really really really prefer all the nice Islamics go back to their own utopias and left me in peace in mine.

      Does that make me evil?

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          • I guess you don’t have much experience of history, human nature, and the wider picture— Islam is not just a ‘religion’; religion is merely one (important) aspect and label and misunderstanding of/for it.

            But really. just a bunch of fuzzy-faced quirky teddy bears and greatly misunderstood … no?

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            • To paint an entire group with such a broad brush is the very definition of bigotry. There are good and bad people in every group, but I happen to live in a neighborhood where about half the people are Muslim, and they are wonderful people. My best friends are refugees from Iraq and Syria, are Muslims, and are the warmest, most caring people I know. And, as an expert in international relations, I think I have a pretty fair grasp of history. You are welcome here, but leave your bigotry and Islamophobia outside the door, please.

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              • I just read your comment after my reply to Argus. I want to state that my unashamed hatred of Islam isn’t against individuals who practice that particular religion – unless, that is, they try to enforce their particular beliefs on me, which until now no Muslim I’ve met in Canada has attempted to do, unlike Christians. When it comes to institutional oppression and defilement of women, I give no quarter, hence why I feel as I do towards Islamic treatment of women in totalitarian theocracies such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria to name only three. Any system that institutionalizes oppression and persecution of women is my enemy and will remain so until it changes or is defeated.

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            • I have serious problems with all organized religions, but with Islam in particular. It is blatantly the most misogynist religion on the planet at this time. Stoning women for adultery when they have been raped is still standard practice under Sharia law, however much apologists for this murderous religion would deny it.

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              • I do not condone any of the terrible things many people have done in the name of a religion, Sha’Tara. And that is why I do not follow religion. But equally, I don’t hate anyone because of their religion. It is hatreds that split humanity (such as it is). If only religions did not exist… They have not served anyone kindly, but do control and manipulate.

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                • I can honestly say I am not aware of hating anyone because of their belief system. I do however reserve the absolute right to hate any system that abuses, exploits and oppresses; that causes fear, terror, pain, hurt, and death for someone’s personal enjoyment, pleasure, enrichment or sense of personal satisfaction. Sometimes I think of myself as an anarchist as I believe that if all ‘systems’ were abolished sanity could rule among mankind. Systems are created by bullies to benefit bullies. If I hate a system and individuals who belong to or support that system feel that my hatred reflects on them, that is their problem, not mine. I may hate a piece of crap car whose brakes failed resulting in a rear-ender but that doesn’t mean I hate the people in that car. That’s my analogy.

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            • The Bahai faith, and Buddhism are both also ways of life, not just a religion. Your comment is not about experience, but rather the opposite. It is the comment of ignorance. That which you appear to find distasteful is an opinion based on watching a few terrorist ideas that have sprung up… And admittedly they are terrible, but please don’t paint everyone as the same. You could hate me for being brought up in the Catholic faith, but you know nothing about me, or how I apply principles of that religion (as a child, I had no choice) or not. Nor can you fairly apply your knowledge (or lack of) on another religion or how people choose to practise it.

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                • I look always for the contradictions—because there are no such things as contradictions, there are only faulty premises. And if means going right back to the very foundations, so be it.

                  Islam is not a religion.

                  Islam is a system, formalised and rigid, for absolute (it means total) control of each and every individual; and the guy who invented it was indeed a genius with a stunning grasp of human nature. Kudos to him, indeed.

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  5. We need to keep the reminders of what depths we are capable. But, as you say, that evil should not be celebrated. In my community Yulee is name recognized by parks and streets. He was a wealthy sugar plantation owner with many slaves during the Civil War. Those slaves led the Union soldiers to Yulee’s plantation. In retaliation he massacred the slaves and dumped their bodies in remote areas of the surrounding swamps and rivers. Do we celebrate him? Hell no, but we do remember the atrocity. Whenever I see his name, I am reminded of the dark moral recesses we all are capable of.

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    • Wow … that’s one I had never heard of before. Yes, I agree, but the danger in the monuments, and even having streets named after one such person, is that it is seen by many as an honour, as a cause for celebration. It seems to me that we can remember the history, remember the atrocities, without honouring the perpetrators with a statue at city hall.

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    • Larry:

      all are products of our time, environment, and inculcated principles. To a degree— some can actually think for themselves and break out. But at what costs?

      A man once quoted at me words to the effect that “…in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king—the two-eyed a monstrosity!”
      Brrrrrr …

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  6. From where I sit, this is the contradiction of our lives. America’s violent history gets reproduced in those monuments and proclamations and also through its imperialistic ambitions. What to do is the question.
    The next contradiction is that we honour war generals not necessarily for saving lives, but for defeating the enemy usually with human casualties on both sides. How do we move from these and other contradictions?

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    • You raise a good question, and one for which I have no answer. But, as the monuments seem to lead to so much anger on one side, and an almost hero worship on the other, I think they do not belong on display. Yes, we must remember the lessons of history, must remember our sordid past, but we must do so in the proper context, I think.

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      • I agree with you. The question of context is what is contested here. Those of the south want to be proud of their heritage & display it. Others think the only monuments to that past should be in books for future gens to read

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  7. If a country wants to move forward, become the modern, progressive, inclusive society then it needs to be open about its past. Not bury its history. Unfortunately countries like the US and the UK did.that. But it’s a fine line between being honest about some of our inglorious past and paying homage to it. Homage demonstrates how fragile the progress is.

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    • Agreed, for if such history is swept under the rug, buried, then we are doomed to repeat it. But, it should never, ever be honoured or celebrated, for to do so makes it seem like something that was good, something worthy of striving to return to.

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  8. Canada has taken down many statues of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, for his part in the attempted genocide of all first nations people, which if he had succeeded I would not be here. This is past history. I really don’t know how I feel about it. But enough others do know, and part of reconciliation is to stop honouring those who wanted to cleanse Canada of non-white persons who could have and should have made claims on the land of and for their forefathers and foremothers. Fortunately the cleanse was a failure.
    But if it had succeeded, would that have wiped out the guilt of those who wanted it to succeed? Never!
    Taking down MacDonald’s statues is an admission of guilt, but how many others should still be taken down? MacDonald did not do this all by himself! However we do things, reconciliation can never be complete. But peace between races is important, more important than anything done in the past.
    No, killing because of race should not be honoured, celebrated, or forgotten. But it does need to be forgiven. How else can we get over the past, and move into the future. Peace is not just an idea, but a must.

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    • I agree with all you say, and especially your last line. But … it seems to me that it is never going to happen. How many centuries, millennia, has the human race been on this planet? And still, in every nation on the planet there is an element that indulges in hate for the sake of arrogance, for the sake of greed. There will always, I think, be those who prefer war to peace, for war is profitable, war is power. And there are those who are so ignorant that they think they are better than another because of skin colour or religious beliefs or gender or a host of other superficial things. Frankly, I’ve given up on world peace, for I think we will simply extinct the human race by the end of this century with our inattention to the environment, our greedy destruction. On the whole, it serves the members of the human race right, but there are some exceptions, some who don’t deserve what is coming.

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      • Sometimes I revert to pre-Trump times, when the world seemed to be caring about the future, and I forget we have stopped making necessary advancements is social yogetherness. Yes, it will be amiracle if we survive, but if we somehow manage that, we should be prepared to stop violence and war. Else why bother trying to survive?

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        • Hmmmm … some food for thought, for I had basically come to the conclusion that the only reason to try to stop the ravages of climate change and other environmental disasters, was to save all the other species that are innocent of trying to destroy the planet for green pieces of paper. But, perhaps there would be a reason to save the human species if it could become better. Thing is … I don’t see humans even trying to become better, for they have that superiority complex that enables them to think they are already best of all. They aren’t, but …

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            • Nah, your life wasn’t wasted, for at the core, you are something more than human, as are most of my readers and I think myself. It is those who believe that their status as a human somehow makes them better that are actually wasting valuable resources here on earth — taking up space, as it were.

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  9. Changing the law – that law in particular – isn’t going to change the obvious fact that America, as a nation, is just as racist as was South Africa, and is Israel currently. Laws don’t change people. They may subdue their grossest desires or cast a politically correct blanket over the shit, but it is individuals who have to choose to change their own diapers. Prediction: that is never going to happen in America, symbolically represented by Donald Trump.

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    • You make a good point … no, changing the law won’t change the attitudes of some, but the hope is that it will keep from spreading the hate. I agree with your prediction … the U.S. is a hodgepodge of attitudes, and half the nation are people like myself who only want everyone to get along and be treated equally. The other half, however, are driven by arrogance and greed, and that obviously isn’t going to change. Sigh.

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      • For reasons which only a very few know of, Earth man (Earthians) is a species bound by taboos, rituals of appeasement, laws and punishments for violations of same. Who originally made the laws? Powerful MEN and most of those laws were directed against the less powerful, women, slaves, children, various types of drudges. The purpose of those laws was simple: to ensure that the servant classes would remain servant classes and to forestall rebellion. When too many laws reached the Draconian stage, rebellions broke out, some powerful MEN were killed and replaced but surprise, surprise, the laws remained essentially the same so that those who took power became just another ruling elite regardless of what name they gave their “new” system. Even when some laws were abolished, or re-written, the same spirit of repression, oppression and control ruled. This fact of history is undeniable. Laws are made to oppress and extort. They apply to the drudge classes much more than to the ruling class which has its own way of dealing with its membership as we can readily see in all totalitarian states including the United Slave States of America. A slave class along with a scapegoat class is endemic to predatory capitalism as practiced in US “economics.” For people to readily support their oppressors they have to be given sacrificial victims to beat up on. Enter the defeated or weaker races within the polis: the natives and the blacks in particular, but others can also be used: almost any non-white person; any non-conforming person such as those belonging to the LGBTQ, etc., community. Any non-Christian, non-white can also be conveniently targeted, lied about, defamed and persecuted with little risk of legal retribution even if clearly written laws are being openly flouted. These are called pogroms. Since the official end of slavery, black people have been subjected to one long, endless pogrom, from Jim Crow rules to lynchings (for which no perpetrator has ever been brought to justice) to segregation and the denial of equal opportunity for advancement. The point that should have been learned from history is that laws are repressive tools, rarely intended to ensure that justice is done throughout the land. Justice is almost always the victim of ‘law and order.’ All totalitarian regimes, not excluding America, are law and order systems. Will changing a law, making a new law or abolishing an old one change the essence of the system? Draw your own conclusion.

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        • Very well stated, ppl are awakening slowly, there is hope. Older generations with deep seated conditioning must die off naturally since their programming will not allow them to change their ways. Younger star seeds are born knowing who they are, so collective change for the better is possible in the near future. The tide is shifting toward higher consciousness… or the game as we know it ends. Either way we will all remember we’re simply part of the whole, one love. ❤

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          • I’ve read and re-read both of those novels and I can relate, especially to Lord of the Flies. I was raised in a tiny northern Canadian essentially white, insular, racist, bigoted Catholic community. As an immigrants’ kid I was the natural scapegoat even if white and Catholic. Racism is programming, it has nothing to do with history or place or common sense. It’s the same as misogyny. No rhyme nor reason can ever explain these reactionary thoughts that foment bullying violence unless one goes back through the ancient records and realizes for her/himself what an Earthian creature is – an invented monstrosity that was never intended to be set loose in a world that had no defense against it. It was designed to serve a temp purpose and be destroyed. The annihilation plan failed and here we are. We will annihilate ourselves as a mock species but this world is going to pay a heavy price for our time here, our “indiscretions.”

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