Sit down America. We need to talk.
It’s time for some inconvenient truths about our nation and how the propagation of systemic racism and white supremacy encourages what we recently witnessed at our national Capitol.
As more disturbing footage of the 1/6 Capitol Insurrection comes to light, many of us are having to face up to the fact our vaunted democracy is a lot frailer than we’d dared to imagine.
Seeing the chaos and the utter madness of the right-wing assault on one of our most cherished traditions reminds us that our destination toward “a more perfect union” is still a bumpy road. Not a smooth transition as Jefferson and others had waxed so eloquently about , but a road filled with potholes, speed bumps, and blind corners.
A WARNING UNHEARD
As an African American writer who have been writing about the complex and polarizing issue of race for many years, I have been warning of the type of white mob violence that we witnessed at the Capitol.
Born and raised in the deep south, I know first hand the ugly spawn of racial hate. During my lifetime, despite the recent election of the nation’s first non-white President, I have seen little evidence that the abyss between Whites and Blacks in our nation has been narrowed.
In the ensuing weeks we have been forced to contemplate how such an appalling breach of our both our Capitol and our sensibilities could happen in America.
LAND OF THE FREE?
I mean, isn’t this America? The land of the free and the home of the brave? A place where freedom, justice, and equality reign?
Are we now ready to face up to the fact we are not what we claim to be? That there are powerful forces out there that aren’t ready to accept a system of government that supposedly guarantees the rights and privileges of all its citizens, regardless of race, color, or creed?
Let me explain something to you. Those groups that invaded the Capitol, whether you call them white nationalists, fascists, Skin Heads, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois, Three Percenters, or KKK, can all be framed under the name Neo-Confederates.
Neo-Confederates are those Whites who will never accept the legitimacy of a government that is constituted to protect the rights of Blacks and other minorities. Neither will they accept the fact the South lost the Civil War.
They’re united by a principal theme of racial and ethnic grievances and an undying belief that white identity should be the organizing principle of the countries that make up Western Civilization.
They harbor a belief that Whites are being dispossessed. They obsess over the belief Black males are lusting after their women and will one day take over. They fear changing demographics will soon relegate them to minority status.
They worship at the altar of the Second Amendment. Their ultimate goal is to bring about Civil War II. They feel they have unfinished business to attend to.
A CHECKERED PAST
Most Americans, white or black, can’t envision our nation ever returning to such a dark time in our history. That’s because they aren’t students of real American history.
How long will we continue to pretend we do not have a long and clear history of white violence, collectively and individually? Have we forgotten that not too long ago lynching was a part of our DNA? Or that violent rampages by white mobs angered by black progress, black protests, or just plain pleas for equal justice are a part of the American story?
Have we forgotten a long history of American courts protecting the perpetration of white violence against Blacks?
I suppose we’ve forgotten, or maybe never accepted, that often law enforcement entities, from the local Sheriff to the FBI, have been protectors of the white mob.
Have we forgotten the FBI’s role in trying to discredit and destabilize both Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement? Or the local Sheriffs that allowed their jails to be overrun by Klansmen who dragged untried, and in many cases innocent, black men and women to the nearest tree to be lynched?
For many in law enforcement during America’s darkest days, Black lives didn’t matter anymore then than they do now.
Never underestimate the power of hate… and misinformation.
A TRAGIC TOLL ON AMERICA’S SOUL
For those refusing to believe another civil war could occur in America let me offer you a tragic reminder of just what hate wrought little more than 150 years ago.
For many decades it was thought the Civil War was responsible for the deaths of around 620,000 soldiers out of the 2.75 million who fought. About 2 million fought on the side of the North and about 750,000 for the South.
But by combing through newly digitized data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghhampton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll. He increased the gruesome body count by more than 20 percent to around 750,000. This figure would translate to about 7.5 million people in proportion to our population today.
Just as alarming is the fact that not all those soldiers died from combat. Many died from accidents, disease, or starvation.
According to estimates another 50,000 civilians lost their lives from such things as bombardments, sieges, disease, and starvation. An additional 80,000 slaves lost their lives during the conflict.
The barbarism didn’t stop there. Nearly 56,000 of those soldiers died in squalid and poorly equipped prison camps from starvation and disease.
An estimated 40 percent of the dead were never identified. Because of advances in weaponry and the sheer number of people killed, many bodies were damaged beyond recognition, or left to rot in piles on the battlefield.
There was no anesthesia on the battlefield. Surgery was far from sterile. Amputation was the common treatment for broken bones or damaged limbs.
An estimated 880,000 Americans lost their lives during the four years of war. More soldiers died in that war than in all other American conflicts combined.
A NATION DIVIDED
The horrendous loss of life shows the severity of a conflict where brother fought against brother and father against son.
And all for a lost cause. An unjust cause.
Because the South was fighting for a way of life disavowed in most of the civilized world, the war was especially brutal and savage.
Atrocities and cruelties were committed in the prison camps of both sides. Country-sides were ravaged. Property was confiscated. Crops were burned. Businesses were looted. Women were raped and terrorized.
And when Black soldiers were finally allowed to join the battle the fighting became even more brutal. Animosities between black and white combatants resulted in unimaginable atrocities both on the battlefield and in prison camps. Many times black soldiers trying to surrender were shot down like dogs.
About 20 percent of the soldiers who died were under eighteen. There were even reports of some women disguised as men being killed on the battlefield.
The estimated cost of the war was $6.19 billion. That’s about $146 billion in today’s dollars.
A NATION AT ODDS WITH HISTORY
We must also remember the war was fought during a time of world instability. The U.S. was one of the last nations to outlaw slavery and many of its economic competitors were envious of the economic advantage that free labor gave the nation.
The South constantly sought to draw other nations into the conflict, and it took all the economic and political muscle Lincoln could muster to keep other nations from joining in the fight.
The war affected economic activity all around the world. The South’s economy was devastated. Many slave owners lost everything.
Thousands of women were widowed. Tens of thousands of children were left without fathers.
The American Civil War was the war that hate spawned.
The same kind of hate we saw on the faces and heard in the voices of the mob that stormed the Capitol.
A wise man once said that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Wise words. Cautionary words.