Daily Planet, 9/2016
“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s mouths get the biting taste.” – ancient Hebrew proverb (cited in the Bible)
I grew up on the white side of Jim Crow.
My family mocked Hitler’s “master race,” but in fact, we had our own insane version of white supremacy. We received it intact from our colonizing, slave-owning ancestors. It was as much a part of us as five fingers on a hand.
I was taught early on: If a lady enters the room, and she’s white, stand up.
My parents bartered with Negroes for their wartime ration cards, assuming they didn’t have money to buy shoes and stuff anyway. They were right.
That’s how it was and how it had always been, and that’s how white people thought it should be, and would be, forever.
All my parents’ friends were characters plucked from the 1890s. They were conservative Christians, who confirmed their views with selected Bible passages. The established order was established and not to be un-established.
Southern minds were not only closed to change in matters of race. Theology and politics (Democrat) were settled and decided forever, too. Remember the Nineteenth Amendment – the one that gave women the right to vote? Well, during the ratification process, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland and Delaware all voted no. (North Carolina apparently didn’t vote on the amendment in this time period.)
In my teens, the earth began to quake. In the summer of 1948, President Truman integrated the Armed Forces, Democrats included a strong Civil Rights plank in their Party platform, the Dixiecrats formed, and the Confederate flag reappeared. (My mother voted Dixiecrat, but then her obstetrician, who delivered me, was Strom Thurmond’s brother!)
When Brown v. BOE came down from the Supreme Court in 1954, demagogues came out of every dark hole in the South, screaming defiance. And on TV, we saw white faces twisted in hate. Their minds weren’t even ajar.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, many, if not most, Southerners peacefully accepted the law of the land. But many millions did not. They weren’t as visible and organized as in another time, but feelings of resentment ran deep.
To them, federal laws and courts were reenacting the Civil War.
And indeed, there was strong similarity to the Civil War. Southerners in 1860 were closed-minded. They didn’t examine the changing world of their time – abolitionism, industrialization, massive immigration. They denounced them. They refused to see that the emerging United States was deeper-rooted and morally superior to their institutions. If they had been wise, they would have joined the U.S. instead of leaving it.
And their children continued their narrowness with school segregation, Jim Crow laws, barriers to Negro voting. The family “heritage” was passed from generation to generation.
Now, in 2016, their descendants, who carry on their attitudes, have found a rallying place in Donald Trump.
A Politico Magazine article observes that almost 1,000 anti-government groups, the KKK, and “the rest of the disparate coalition that has vocally supported the Confederate flag over the past year, have aligned behind Trump.” Confederate flags and Trump t-shirts mix and mingle outside Trump rallies.
In Jim Crow times, violence against African-Americans in the North was not uncommon. (Note particularly the Marion, Indiana lynching of1930.) But today, the anger of Trump followers in the North seems to be resentment over betrayal. The American dream they believed in has been snatched away. They want things back the way they were before – which include a white majority, which is also slipping away.
By contrast, Southern anger hasn’t just surged up in the past decade. It’s very old. And it’s very destructive to society – and to the generation now coming of age.
It needs to stop.
In 1860, Southern leaders did not have the wisdom to join America.
Their descendants today should open their minds and evaluate the changes happening in America, especially equality.
If they don’t, they may not just be on the wrong side of history. They may be on the wrong side of right and wrong