Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

LoS President: Democracy Only Works When White Folks Run Things

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on May 1, 2012

You’ve got to appreciate the candor of J. Michael Hill, founder, president, and self-described “big chief” of the League of the South; he leaves no one in doubt about what really matters to him:

Majority rule only works where there is already a consensus of sorts on the fundamental issues within a particular society. For instance, in a Christian nation that enjoys a high degree of homogeneity in its racial and ethnic make-up, language, institutions, and inherited culture, most matters up for a vote are largely superficial policy issues. They don’t tamper with the agreed-upon foundations of the society. However, in a multicultural and multiracial polyglot Empire such as ours is today, the concept of majority rule is often fraught with dire (and even deadly) consequences for the losers, especially if the winners bear a grudge.
 
As I write in 2012, there are projections that these United States—and our beloved Southland–will have a white minority by 2040 (or before, depending on immigration policy). Simply put, that will mean the end of society as we know it. You and Bill Clinton may be OK with this, but I’m not.
 
Who stands to lose by this devil’s bargain? The descendants of America’s founding stock will be the losers. As a native white Southerner, I’m primarily concerned about the future of the South. Our ancestors bequeathed us a republican society based on Christian moral principles, the English language, racial (and some degree of ethnic) homogeneity, and British legal and political institutions. All this will be gone with the wind if we don’t stand as united white Southerners against the unholy leftist trinity of “tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism.”

To be sure, this line of argument is nothing new coming from Hill; this essay dates back to 2007 (at least), with only a few slight edits. It’s not a gaffe, a one-off, but rather suggestive of a thought-out, stable perspective on Hill’s part. It’s policy, and an  idea he’s expressed before:

We are already at war—we just don’t know it. One instance: Immigration. This is not just a matter of policy. It’s a matter of our very survival as white men and women of European Christian stock on this land we call the South. It is a zero sum game—we win or they win. There is no middle ground for compromise. Losing means that my grandchildren will grow up in a third world country. Multiculturalism and diversity means “we” cease to exist as a viable and prosperous people.

You have to wonder what Hill sees as the role and voice for African Americans and others is in his vision of an independent South is; some of those folks undoubtedly have families that trace back as far as Hill’s does, regardless of how they came to be there. (And note, as Will Rogers used to say, “some of them were there to meet the boat.”) What is their voice, their political agency in the “Free South” Hill and the League of the South envision? Sure, there will always be a place for highly-paid entertainers, fluffing people like Hill and assuring them how grateful black folks ought to be for helping them when the Supreme Court forced Jim Crow on the South, but what about everybody else?

Honesty can be invigorating, even when it’s unpleasant — like getting a cold bucket of water dumped on you. For all the discussion of abstract concepts like liberty and freedom, Hill’s core concern is, explicitly, about maintaining and preserving white power — political, cultural and social. His candor should be welcomed; it’s always good to know exactly where he and the League of the South stand, and what they stand for.
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South Carolina Flag Dispute: Heritage vs. Heritage

Posted in African Americans, Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on September 28, 2011

In putting together my recent post on the rancorous neighborhood dispute over a resident’s display of a Confederate Battle Flag in an historically African American neighborhood, I made a passing reference to the fact that the community itself had been founded by former USCTs. In retrospect, I “buried the lede,” as they say, and gave that aspect of the story short shrift — it likely plays a much bigger role in how that community identifies itself, and in its reaction to Ms. Caddell’s display:

Among [Brownsville's] founding families were at least 10 soldiers stationed to guard the Summerville railroad station at the close of the Civil War. They were members of the 1st Regiment, United States Colored Troops, part of a force of freedmen and runaway slaves who made history with their service and paved the way for African Americans in the military.

At least some of the men were from North Carolina plantations. When the war ended they stayed where they were, living within hailing distance of each other along the tracks. Some of them lived on the “old back road” out of town where outrage has erupted recently over a resident flying a Confederate battle flag. Their ancestors [sic., descendants] still live there.

It’s a striking note in a controversy over heritage that has raised hackles across the Lowcountry and the state.

The community’s past is an obscure bit of the rich history in Summerville, maybe partly because for years the families kept it to themselves. They were the veterans and descendants of Union troops, living through Jim Crow and segregated times in a region that vaunted its rebel past.

The great-great-grandfather of Jordan Simmons III was among them. But growing up in Brownsville a century later, all Simmons remembers hearing about Jordan Swindel, his ancestor, is that he was a runaway slave who joined the Army. The rest, he says simply, “was not talked about.” He didn’t find out about it until he was an adult doing research on the Civil War and the troops and came across Swindel’s name.

Now he’s at work on a book about his family and the Brownsville heritage. Other 1st Regiment surnames in the community include Jacox, Berry, Campbell, Edney and Fedley.

Simmons, 64, has lived through some history of his own. He was one of the South Carolina State University students injured in the infamous 1968 Orangeburg Massacre. He too served in the U.S. Army, a 29-year veteran who fought in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne infantry and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He now lives in Virginia.

It overwhelmed him to see his great-great-grandfather’s name on the wall of honor three years ago when he visited the African-American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Pvt. Swindel fought in four battles in nine months in 1864, from Florida — where he was wounded — to Honey Hill, S.C. Simmons wishes he would have sought out that history when he was younger.

As I said previously, neither side in this dispute seems much interested in letting go of this game of one-upsmanship. The historical circumstances surrounding the town’s founding don’t change the core legal issues at hand, but given that the Southron Heritage folks routinely dismiss criticism of the Confederate Flag as “political correctness” or as unfairly tarnishing an honored symbol of the Confederacy with its use by hate groups, it’s interesting to see a case where the protestor’s case against the flag is so explicitly based in the very same “heritage” argument that the flag’s proponents righteously embrace.  For at least some local residents, pushback against the CBF is every bit as grounded in the history of the American Civil War, and honoring one’s ancestors, as Ms. Caddell’s display of it. For them, it’s personal, and for exactly the same reasons.

I don’t know what the answer here is. What is clear, though, is that there’s an historical dimension to this case — very real and very valid, by the same “heritage” standard that the folks in (say) the South Carolina League of the South embrace for themselves — that needs much wider dissemination, and it plays a big role in how that community thinks and feels and reacts.
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Image: Soldiers of the 1st USCT on parade. Library of Congress.

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