This post really stood out for me in the thread on Heroic Memory:
Thinking on this I want to be sensitive and all, but something has nagged at me so I'm going to risk throwing it out there.
Many white Southerners consider that the North had to end slavery and segregation to be embarrassing. So imagining Lee or whoever as someone who would have been for it dying out is seen as giving them more control over their own fate.
Many Southerners I think really want to believe that they would have become enlightened on their own in time. Being reminded by Lee's embrace of slavery or the Confederacy being about slavery may seem to say "no you wouldn't have, you are unenlightened racists who have to be forced to change by Northerners." White Southerners therefore become the whipping boy of American history, unless they identify with the North.
Much of this is white Southerners own fault of course. Many of the ones who wanted to end slavery or racial segregation were pushed into moving North or were castigated as being "scalawag" agents of the North whether they were or not. Still this sense of being "under siege", of being constantly criticized, is very much in the Southern white psyche. I'm not sure how to deal with that or if this is even going to make sense to anyone. Possibly it's been dealt with before. I do think you make good efforts at trying to get at Southerners who did good and were truly Southern though.
Lotta good stuff here. What I am seeing is that a faction of Southerners are attracted to this stuff because they don't want to bow to the North. In their minds, the Lost Cause is about not conceding to Northern snobbery. I think it's also worth remembering that there was also, at the time, a cult of Southern invincibility. Southerners believed they were hardier then Northerners, and thus destined to win. It is true that the South had a military tradition that wasn't as dominant in the North.
But I think, it also helps to think of the Civil War as having three factions with three different aims:
1) The South which secedes explicitly to protect the institution of slavery and a system of white supremacy, but also feels that its "way of life" is fundamentally different from the North's. It's true that slavery and systemic white supremacy are essential cogs in that "way of life," but they aren't the entirety of it.
2) The North which is interested, primarily, in preserving the Union. If destroying slavery will help in that end, then all the better--but destroying slavery is not the primary goal. This is crucial and I want to clear, because it's easy to conflate this--That the North is primarily motivated by unionism, not emancipation, does not negate the fact the South seceded--primarily and explicitly--to preserve systemic white supremacy. Their own documents tell the tale well. Additionally, the North almost certainly, brings its own cultural baggage and biased judgement on the South's "way of life."
3) African-Americans who explicitly sought the destruction of slavery and the end of systemic white supremacy. The African-American war against slavery began as soon as we got of the boat. In relevance to the Civil War, you can likely trace it back to Denmark Vessey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, and John Brown. But that only counts militant action, and ignores the small everyday acts of resistance (loafing around, breaking equipment, running off for weeks at a time) and individual acts of violence (poisonings, for instance).
At the onset of the War between the North and South, African-Americans immediately attempt to sign up and fight--for both sides. Their basic notion is that they'll fight for whoever will set them free. In the main, they are refused. But they force the issue by running to Union lines and making it very clear to the North that the only way to preserve the Union is to end slavery. The Union initially returns runaway slaves. But by the South's racist logic, this is folly--slaves are property, and part of the economic engine that allows the South to resist. Returning slaves to the rebels is essentially like returning captured horses back to a defeated calvary.
The point I'm trying to make here is that there was, and perhaps always has been, two wars. One was between the North and the South, and it was one based on preserving the Union. The other was between blacks and white supremacy, in the form of the Confederacy. What you see, as the war goes on, is a gradual, and rather amazing, process by which blacks, free and enslaved, force the North to accept the cause of emancipation as their own. The logic of the war makes it unavoidable.
One of the ways in which you see the difference is by looking at the fights between the USCT and Southerners. The casualty rates for the USCT are always astronomical when compared to other regiments. From what I can tell, this reflects a few things. 1) The sheer anger that Southerners felt when confronted with their "property" so armed. To them, they might as well have been fighting a slave rebellion 2) The massacres which sometimes happened after black units surrendered. 3) The sheer ferocity with which some black units fought. If you think about it, more than any other group of soldiers, the USCT had the least to lose.
On that last point, I think of this account of the death of one USCT member, Big Jack Johnson, in Louisiana, fighting at Milliken's Bend. It's worth noting that Milliken's Bend is part of the Vicksburg campaign, a campaign that Pat Buchanan claims was fought entirely "100 percent" by white men. Milliken's Bend is distinctive for two other reasons. First, it's only the second time black troops fight as regiments, after the Emancipation Proclomation. Second, unlike the vast majority of Civil War battles, Milliken's Bend descended into hand to hand combat with bayonets something very rarely happened during the Civil War.
Anyway, Big Jack Jackson was a field hand in either Mississippi or Louisiana, I can't remember which. But he's one of the first to be signed up by white recruiters looking to form black regiments. The white recruiters complain that there having difficulty filling the ranks, in large measure because black women are distrustful of them and won't let the men fight. Here's a terrific account, by one white recruiter, about the trouble they were having:
The first plantation house we came to, there were six or eight eligibles loafing around and we dismounted and proceeded to business. We found them much interested in the subject but could get no decision from them. They would not say they would not go, nor would they say they would.
Frustrated, the recruiter sends Big Jack Jackson to do the job and Jackson simply reaches into the slave quarters and proceeds to line the men up in ranks:
They did not pay much attention to me, but riveted their eyes on Jack, whom they must have thought a brigadier at least...Jack dismounted and proceeded to set these coons up in line with about as much ceremony as he would use if he was setting up so many ten-pins...When the wenches discovered the men were being marched away, they set up a terrible howl. But it did not faze Jack. He kept them going and they were soon out of sight and hearing.
Within weeks, green as hell, they were in combat at Miliken's Bend. You can read a contemporary account of the fight here. On the words of his commanding officer, here's how Big Jack met his fate:
Big Jack Jackson passed me like a rocket. With the fury of a tiger he sprang into that gang and crushed everything before him. There was nothing left of Jack's gun except the barrel and he was smashing everything he could reach. On the other side of the levee, they were yelling "Shoot that big nigger! Shoot that nigger!" while Jack was daring the whole gang to come up and fight him. Then a bullet reached his head and he fell full on the levee.
Jack was fighting for something more than "the Union."
Without the financial support that many white families can provide, minority young people have to continually make sacrifices that set them back.
He died on a Saturday.
My mother and I had planned to pick my dad up from the hospital for a trip to the park. He loved to sit and watch families stroll by as we chatted about oak trees, Kona coffee, and the mysteries of God. This time, the park would miss him.
His skin, smooth and brown like the outside of an avocado seed, glistened with sweat as he struggled to take his last breaths.
In that next year, I graduated from grad school, got a new job, and looked forward to saving for a down payment on my first home, a dream I had always had, but found lofty. I pulled up a blank spreadsheet and made a line item called “House Fund.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Places like St. Louis and New York City were once similarly prosperous. Then, 30 years ago, the United States turned its back on the policies that had been encouraging parity.
Despite all the attention focused these days on the fortunes of the “1 percent,” debates over inequality still tend to ignore one of its most politically destabilizing and economically destructive forms. This is the growing, and historically unprecedented, economic divide that has emerged in recent decades among the different regions of the United States.
Until the early 1980s, a long-running feature of American history was the gradual convergence of income across regions. The trend goes back to at least the 1840s, but grew particularly strong during the middle decades of the 20th century. This was, in part, a result of the South catching up with the North in its economic development. As late as 1940, per-capita income in Mississippi, for example, was still less than one-quarter that of Connecticut. Over the next 40 years, Mississippians saw their incomes rise much faster than did residents of Connecticut, until by 1980 the gap in income had shrunk to 58 percent.
A Chicago cop now faces murder charges—but will anyone hold his colleagues, his superiors, and elected officials accountable for their failures?
Thanks to clear video evidence, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged this week with first-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Nevertheless, thousands of people took to the city’s streets on Friday in protest. And that is as it should be.
The needlessness of the killing is clear and unambiguous:
Yet that dash-cam footage was suppressed for more than a year by authorities citing an investigation. “There was no mystery, no dead-end leads to pursue, no ambiguity about who fired the shots,” Eric Zorn wrote in The Chicago Tribune. “Who was pursuing justice and the truth? What were they doing? Who were they talking to? With whom were they meeting? What were they trying to figure out for 400 days?”
Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves in Palo Alto?
The air shrieks, and life stops. First, from far away, comes a high whine like angry insects swarming, and then a trampling, like a herd moving through. The kids on their bikes who pass by the Caltrain crossing are eager to get home from school, but they know the drill. Brake. Wait for the train to pass. Five cars, double-decker, tearing past at 50 miles an hour. Too fast to see the faces of the Silicon Valley commuters on board, only a long silver thing with black teeth. A Caltrain coming into a station slows, invites you in. But a Caltrain at a crossing registers more like an ambulance, warning you fiercely out of its way.
The kids wait until the passing train forces a gust you can feel on your skin. The alarms ring and the red lights flash for a few seconds more, just in case. Then the gate lifts up, signaling that it’s safe to cross. All at once life revives: a rush of bikes, skateboards, helmets, backpacks, basketball shorts, boisterous conversation. “Ew, how old is that gum?” “The quiz is next week, dipshit.” On the road, a minivan makes a left a little too fast—nothing ominous, just a mom late for pickup. The air is again still, like it usually is in spring in Palo Alto. A woodpecker does its work nearby. A bee goes in search of jasmine, stinging no one.
The sport is becoming an enterprise where underprivileged young men risk their health for the financial benefit of the wealthy.
Football can be a force for good. The University of Missouri’s football team proved it earlier this month when student athletes took a facet of campus life that’s often decried—the cultural and economic dominance of college football—and turned it into a powerful leverage point in the pursuit of social justice. Football can build a sense of community for players and fans alike, and serve as a welcome escape from the pressures of ordinary life. The sport cuts across distinctions of race, class, geography, and religion in a way few other U.S. institutions do, and everyone who participates reaps the benefits.
But not everyone—particularly at the amateur level—takes on an equal share of the risk. College football in particular seems headed toward a future in which it’s consumed by people born into privilege while the sport consumes people born without it. In a 2010 piece in The Awl, Cord Jefferson wrote, “Where some see the Super Bowl, I see young black men risking their bodies, minds, and futures for the joy and wealth of old white men.” This vision sounds dystopian but is quickly becoming an undeniable reality, given new statistics about how education affects awareness about brain-injury risk, as well as the racial makeup of Division I rosters and coaching staffs. The future of college football indeed looks a lot like what Jefferson called “glorified servitude,” and even as information comes to light about the dangers and injustices of football, nothing is currently being done to steer the sport away from that path.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Nuts-and-bolts Washington coverage has shifted to subscription-based publications, while the capitol’s traditional outlets have shrunk.
Back in 2009, I had a job with a Washington, D.C.-based newsletter called Water Policy Report. It wasn’t exactly a household name, but I was covering Congress, the federal courts, and the Environmental Protection Agency—a definite step up from the greased-pig-catching contests and crime-blotter stories I had chased at a community newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my first job out of college.
One of my responsibilities at the newsletter was to check the Federal Register—the official portal that government agencies use to inform the public about regulatory actions. In December of that year I noticed an item that said that the Environmental Protection Agency had decided that existing pollution controls for offshore oil-drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were adequate, and that there wasn’t enough pollution coming from those platforms to warrant further review or action.
It was widely seen as a counter-argument to claims that poor people are "to blame" for bad decisions and a rebuke to policies that withhold money from the poorest families unless they behave in a certain way. After all, if being poor leads to bad decision-making (as opposed to the other way around), then giving cash should alleviate the cognitive burdens of poverty, all on its own.
Sometimes, science doesn't stick without a proper anecdote, and "Why I Make Terrible Decisions," a comment published on Gawker's Kinja platform by a person in poverty, is a devastating illustration of the Science study. I've bolded what I found the most moving, insightful portions, but it's a moving and insightful testimony all the way through.
“Wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time is a baseline condition of human consciousness.”
Gary Noesner is a former FBI hostage negotiator. For part of the 51-day standoff outside the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, he was the strategic coordinator for negotiations with the compound’s leader, David Koresh. This siege ended in infamous tragedy: The FBI launched a tear-gas attack on the compound, which burned to the ground, killing 76 people inside. But before Noesner was rotated out of his position as the siege’s head negotiator, he and his team secured the release of 35 people.
Jamie Holmes, a Future Tense Fellow at New America, spoke to Noesner for his new book Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. “My experience suggests,” Noesner told Holmes, “that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, people are confused and ambivalent. Part of them wants to die, part of them wants to live. Part of them wants to surrender, part of them doesn’t want to surrender.” And good negotiators, Noesner says, are “people who can dwell fairly effectively in the areas of gray, in the uncertainties and ambiguities of life.”