- Oct 27, 2017
I saw this fascinating piece in today's Washington Post and thought it would be good to share. In this piece, a reporter for the Post spends 10-months with a devout Confederate supporter named Frank Earnest trying to understand his support for the Confederacy. Of course, Frank claims "he's not a racist" but that his ancestors fought a noble war against a tyrannical North that had nothing to do with slavery. Can Frank's mind be changed with some further education a a trip the the African-American Museum?
Not A Racist
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/28/feature/the-confederacy-was-built-on-slavery-how-can-so-many-southern-whites-still-believe-otherwise/?utm_term=.ab85ed9b03ccIn July, a 62-year-old white man named Frank Earnest, one of the country’s most ardent defenders of Confederate monuments, traveled 200 miles from his Virginia home to Washington, D.C., and got in line at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You could say he stood out among the throng of visitors, most of them black. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Frank sported a thatch of chin whiskers straight from a daguerreotype — a fulsome goatee reminiscent of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, a rebel hero of his. In the lobby, as he emptied his pockets at a metal detector, I waited for the attendant, a cordial woman, to notice his key fob, bearing the Confederate flag and the legend “Don’t Mess With Dixie.”
Not A Racist
The War Was Not About Slavery...Still, in the end, he acknowledged, we are all our parents’ children. “Sometimes in the zeal to give equal rights, the pendulum swings too far,” he said. “That’s where my father was at. This is a horrible example, but it’s like slavery. … I understand if you were a slave, you wanted freedom now. But there were people questioning, ‘How do you just turn them loose?’ You had to prepare them. And I think that really goes to desegregation. My father thought it needed to be incremental, done in a reasonable manner. ‘Let’s not rush into it.’
1950's Education Was Quite Impartial and Accurate.According to the gospel of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, President Abraham Lincoln ordered an invasion of the breakaway states not as a crusade for natural rights but to keep the union intact and perpetuate the federal government’s economic bullying of the South. As for human bondage, the practice had been dying organically worldwide, and, in due course, it would have ended in Dixie without bloodshed — incrementally, in a reasonable manner, the way Lionel Earnest thought desegregation should have occurred.
Still Not a RacistThe dog-eared volume, feathered with sticky notes, is a resource for Frank in preparing the lectures he occasionally delivers at heritage assemblies. After recounting the Old South’s economic grievances, which still feel fresh to Confederate Frank, the authors described “How the Negroes Lived Under Slavery” in Virginia. Frank and his classmates were taught that, as a rule, the basic personal needs of slaves were humanely seen to by their overseers. Thus, “a strong feeling of affection existed between masters and slaves,” and the slaves “went about in a cheerful manner.”
Chapter 30: In 1831, a bloody slave revolt in Virginia, led by Nat Turner, who was given to “strange visions,” coincided with the growth of abolitionism in the North and its “abusive” propaganda. Out of necessity, “It became unlawful to teach Negroes to read or write because of the fear that they would get dangerous ideas from the books and newspapers of the Abolitionists.” Other privileges also had to be curtailed, for the good of all concerned.
I looked for the chapter about summary hangings of recalcitrant runaways, about floggings and other brutal punishments inflicted after underproductive days in the fields. As Frank might say, “Why am I not surprised they left that out?” Slave labor, an economic engine of agrarian Dixie, wasn’t exactly free labor; a planter had to buy, feed, clothe and house his subjugated workforce. And he guarded his profit margin with a whip when necessary. I searched the textbook in vain for this bit of gruesome history.
Confederate apologists think that the foisting of black suffrage on the defeated South, purportedly resulting in wholesale waste and thievery, was an act of Yankee vengeance. Although Frank assured me, again, that he is not a racist, he said I needed to realize: Freed slaves were woefully unprepared for civic responsibility. He said political integration should have been accomplished incrementally, in a reasonable manner. As Lionel Earnest would say 100 years after the war, “Let’s not rush into it.”