The fist Confederate statues were monuments to victory in a war of Southern aggression. Defeated at Appomattox, Southern whites regrouped by organizing terrorist militias and ransacking the region’s newly biracial local and state governments. As the North soured on Reconstruction and white Republicans finally abandoned the freed slaves, Southerners completed the “Redemption” of the old Confederacy with the imposition of a slavery-esque system of apartheid. Up went the statues to celebrate Dixie’s revenge.
All the while, white Southerners framed their aggression as an act of cultural self-defense. Propagating vile stereotypes about Black men, Southern Redeemers portrayed their restoration of white supremacy as a noble act of defense against supposedly rapacious African Americans and an oppressive carpetbagging horde. The reality that whites were the revisionist force in this contretemps was actively denied by key propagandists of the so-called Lost Cause. And with the complicity of Northern historians, the white South maintained this lie about the course of their history until very recent times.
Oppression marketed as a fight against oppression is something we see today. Like the Lost Causers so many of them have on the family tree, conservatives across America have taken to a self-image as warriors engaged in a desperate battle to keep their way of life intact amidst an onslaught of cultural aggression. They would have other Americans believe that conservative white people merely want to be left alone, and would rest happy in their homesteads if left-wing radicals would relent. In fact, conservatives are the aggressors.
The conservative quest for revenge started in the most Southern of the northern states, Mike Pence’s Indiana. There, Governor Pence shepherded to passage a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that created a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Pence, like other religious conservatives, portrayed the so-called RFRA as a safety net against commands that evangelicals violate their personal religious beliefs. But RFRA was really an establishment, or reestablishment, of a dormant privilege to refuse services to people toward whom a given business owner felt social animus. It was an act of special pleading for conservative Christians and an attack on ordinary gay people who simply wanted to be treated as equals.
A potential rival to Pence for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, a committed right-winger, has sharpened the spear of conservative aggression to a fine and deadly point. Unprovoked by anything real, DeSantis and his allies banned the teaching of LGBTQ-related subject matter in early elementary school. The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill singled out LGBTQ families for exclusion and stigma, a clear act of political targeting. DeSantis has followed up his homophobic education policies with even more brutish applications of state power against social liberalism. These attacks have, in fact, become the basis of his esteemed reputation in conservative circles and the foundation of his rumored presidential campaign.
Social conservatives do not just want a reprieve from cultural change. They want, rather, to reclaim and reshape American culture in a way that reflects religious conservatism and a strong white hegemony. If they only sought unbothered autonomy, they would seek out compromise with progressive activists. But like the Southern boys who sang “Dixie” when Woodrow Wilson was finally elected, conservatives want an American that is theirs, and theirs alone.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.
I always admire your articles. This one is exceptionally good.
I believe the real question on the table “are or have your ever been a member of the red tailed bird watcher society of the South Bronx?” Seriously!
The conflict between Trump and his opponent Ron De Santos for the Republican nomination is going to be the ruination of both. De Santos, who is obviously smarter, which in Trump’s case is not saying much, will make public enough confusing information for their already challenged followers to cause them not to vote. The Trump method of operation is go after any aspect of his opponent which could engender hate. It would not surprise many folks to hear Trump attack De Santos on the bases of his ethnicity. De Santos recently stated unlike Trump he wins reelection. This, coupled with Republican shenanigans in the House of Representative, involving the debt ceiling which could lead to reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Vet. Retirement benefits will touch and concern a sizable amount of the residents of Florida and this country. When folks see their 401Ks and taxes negatively affected, they most certainly will think twice before backing Republican politicians. This will be especially likely when Republican voters come to the realization these cuts were made to allow tax reductions for corporate interests and GOP fat cats.
What Alex fails to note in this obnoxious screed is the fact that his ‘Southern Redeemers’—those whom he describes as hellbent on restoring white supremacy as a ‘noble act of defense’ against black Americans—was largely perpetrated by the Democrat Party!
Let’s set the record straight here: it is historically provable that it was the Democrat Party which institutionalized Jim Crow laws in an effort to legalize segregation. After the Civil War, the militant Ku Klux Klan was formed by Democrats to oppose efforts by the Republican Party to integrate blacks.
It was the Democrat Party which voted against Emancipation, voted against the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments which gave black Americans legitimate citizenship, the right to vote, and provided due process under law.
It was the Democrat Party which obstructed and opposed the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1875, and 1964. If it were not for the Republican Party, those Civil Rights Acts would not have passed, and the incumbent Democrat Presidents would have opposed them.
It is the Democrat Party which perpetuated all of this racist repression, in a vicious effort to suppress, and to oppress, black Americans. They continue to aggressively spout this racist propaganda to this day, and the black community has been conditioned to accept it without question, lest they be attacked and labeled ‘Uncle Tom’s’. Nonsense such as this article vomits is little more than the usual deflection and misdirection that Democrats are so famous for. Don’t buy it, folks. As I pointed out elsewhere: the history of the Democrat Party indicts the whole party. ‘White Southerners’ are not the threat; the Democrat Party is the actual threat!
Wayne let’s get real! After the Civil War, the Democratic party dominated in the South due to its opposition to civil and political rights for African Americans. After a major shift in the 20th century, today’s Democrats are known for their association with a strong federal government and support for minority, women’s and labor rights, environmental protection and progressive reforms. Starting with FDR, Democrats introduced successful changes, like “the New Deal” that supported equality and individual rights. Before you attempt to associate the modern Democratic party with the current practices of Republicans do a little research.