Race And Racism: A Historical Look (11 of 15)

(If you want to read the full version you can go HERE,)

It Comes Down To This

I began this long study because I’m tired of being insulted for being “white”. I am Caucasian because my parents, and their parents, came mostly from Ireland, some way back in the 1700s, the latest my maternal grandmother. It’s stupid to even ask, “Would I like to be a different color?” Should I be ashamed that I’m so-called white? Why would I be? I’m not ashamed that I’m male. Both my maleness and my “whiteness” is a biological fact, not a social construct that can change however I politically feel. Well, what about my so-called “white privilege”? Privilege is a construct, not an ontological character of being. In our newfound war against each other we’ve made it a fact of being, but it isn’t.

From our beginning as 13 Colonies to the formation of a nation in 1776, slavery has caused a divide in our country. The worst of it came in the Civil War that began when slave states separated from the Union of States to form their own nation, and did so primarily because they wanted to preserve the institution of slavery, the right to own people as slaves. Economics was  typically the driver historically for slavery, not presuppositional philosophy dividing people as lesser beings.  But certainly this became a philosophical tone used by some intellectual elitists in Europe, and it did come across the ocean to us, but it was first and foremost economic; cheap labor in numbers necessary. Without this labor farmers could not produce and harvest enough product to sell bringing wealth to themselves and their state. But it wasn’t free labor, it still cost the farmer to feed and house the slaves though they did it as cheaply as possible. Honestly it was labor they felt they otherwise could not get. I grew up on a farm, I understand the issue of labor. My father managed a cantaloupe farm for two years and I helped run the packing shed. The farm was outside a small city, large enough that there could be workers come from the town, but they didn’t want to do the work so we had to contract with migrants (not Hispanic but mostly roaming drunks) to do the work. That’s a story in itself but not one for here. We consumers want to eat cantaloupe for breakfast and it doesn’t magically show up in our grocery store without someone growing them and someone picking them and someone packing them for market. And this all takes labor. It’s why back on the peach ranch many of the pickers were illegal Mexicans. My point is only that a lot of complicated decisions must be made when you farm. It doesn’t justify the use of slaves, it was a very bad choice made, but don’t write off the dilemma farmers face as nothing. Once we went from just producing enough for ourselves to producing more to feed or supply others with goods the question was how to do that. Once farmers chose the slave route for labor they sold their souls to the devil, a kind of Faustian move—from a story by Johann Wolfgang Goethe: “The erudite Faust is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life, which leads him to make a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.” So Southern farmers sold their souls for slave labor and not all of them just for personal riches but to produce goods for the whole community. Again, this doesn’t justify slavery. They had to shut down their moral minds to do it and the community let them by not helping to find different solutions.

And this then went morally downhill from there. What began as an economic issue ended up a moral one as slavery was justified to salve the consciousnesses of the people who used or accepted slavery of another human being. If it had stayed economic it could have been worked out in other ways, but when owning people as slaves became moral the rationalization became ingrained in society. In Article I, Section 9, Clause (4) of the Constitution of the Confederate States we read this: (4) “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” Slavery was not only institutionalized in the Confederate States, it was chiseled in law.

“The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionists slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves. After the American Civil War began in April, four slave states of the Upper South—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—also declared their secession and joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy later accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members, although neither officially declared secession nor were they ever largely controlled by Confederate forces.” (Wikipedia,“Confederate States of America”.)

Civil wars come about because of divides in a nation, in this case those slave states saw the handwriting on the wall and the free-states were calling more and more for an end to slavery. I know we are caught up in the false imagery that all the states were systemically slave supporting but nothing can be further from the truth and demonstrably so by just looking at history. That’s a false narrative fostered to keep the war between people alive because some want the war.

There is no “opt” out for states in the Constitution. A good argument against secession can be found in The American Conservative, “Is Secession Legal?” Certainly in 1863 it was declared not legal for Southern states to opt out of the United States and Lincoln took the Union to war against the Confederate States that seceded from the Union and finally ended the institution of slavery in his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The United States did what it should have done in the beginning. The South was forced to free all their slaves, an outward physical act. It didn’t come with a mind and soul change, however, something that would take much longer to change.

False Narratives

In our modern war against each other we don’t want to look at facts because facts might change our minds, reason destroy passion. Passion typically looks at everything in an either/or whereas reason tries to consider things as possibly both/and. Postmodernism, the philosophical movement we are now in, rejects reason for passion and passion has hard edges that rather than finds points of contact bounce off one another. I feel therefore I am.

Today, having made our savior politics and merged politics with passion, we believe everything outside our political ideology is not just wrong, but evil because it could potentially destroy our political bias. A summum bonumI learned early in life (though I didn’t always follow it) was that if you do something right in the first place you won’t have conflicting choices in how to fix it and make it right later. Our American ancestors didn’t do it right in the first place and now we are drawn into conflicting choices that are keeping us limping along (politically, morally, and humanely) and no one is happy.

The problem? We are being given false narratives, pictures are being painted that look more like from Picasso than Michelangelo. I’m going to take a hard reality look at the choices being made after the Emancipation Proclamation both by the former slave holding culture and the newly freed former slave culture. Because we didn’t do it right the first time, now that we want to fix it we find conflicting choices in how to do that. Philosophically and morally we can paint a really good picture how that would look, at least in some kind of idealistic utopian form. But we are not ideals we are people with as many internal conflicts as external conflicts. And both sides have a learned hate toward the other and it doesn’t matter that one side, the slave side, has a righteous hatred for their former masters and the life (system) they had to endure.

Christians present God (in Jesus) as the all-loving God, the God of the Jews a vengeful, warring, at times a hating God who slaughters people (as in the story of the Flood, as in the Egyptians, as in the Tower of Babel, as in the Canaanites who lived in the land God promised Abraham), but the God of the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament and we are confused in just what the hell this “I AM” is. We look at the mythological gods of nations who are always at war with one another and nations constantly follow their example. Hate appears to be as much of their reality as love. About hate, in the Bible we read these words:

“Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble”.

“But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”(I John 2: 10-11.)

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesian 4:31.)

“‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.”

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19: 17-18.)

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (John 3: 14-14.)

Hate is like a raging cancer that tears down, destroys everything about us. It makes us the worst of who we are and is the second strongest feeling we can experience. If darkness is not real, though it can feel very real, exposed not to be real by the light that reveals everything, we can say hate is not real, though it feels very real, exposed by love. Love is the strongest feeling we can experience, the most energy charging emotion that fills our body, the whole us, with an excitement that is boundless.

I’ve said it before, hate is not real but what is real that is expressed or felt as hate is fear. Fear, not hate is the opposite of love. If God is the complete expression of love then those who say they love him cannot have fear and hate in their lives and still claim to be his. Now that’s a great preaching statement and, however, absolutely true and what God expects of us, we who love Him are still a work in progress. We don’t fully understand the statement that God is Love because we don’t fully understand God. Some think they do but I’m telling you we don’t.

Let me be clear: Christians who in their heart believed holding fellow human beings as slaves, especially those who tortured scripture to justify slavery, have no right to claim themselves Christian. Those who were conflicted about it all at least were struggling along with the rest of us who are conflicted in what is right and wrong. We are not yet perfect (telios) but we’re sure struggling to get there and with others help we’ll make it.

Okay, so we have the day before the Emancipation Proclamation and the day after the Emancipation Proclamation; first day there are slaves, next day there are technically none. Now what? Do I love my former slaves (and what does that look like) and do I love my former masters (and what does that look like)? How do we on either side get from A to B? If everyone believed in Yahweh we could bury our hatreds and go from there. Well let’s be real. Even inside Ancient Israel when supposedly everyone believed in Yahweh there were those who disregarded their faith and treated each other in the worst ways. On January 1, 1863 when slavery was declared officially over, while Christianity was on the whole our common faith we were a people with no faith in God and all faith in God and everything in-between.