Very much a part of many white Southerners’ identity

There’s such a thing as Confederate Memorial Day. I did not know that. It’s today in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Woohoo. Is there also a Hooray for Slavery Day? A Glorify Racism Day? A Steal Other People’s Labor Day?

Alabama closes its government offices today in observance of Confederate Memorial Day, along with Mississippi and Georgia. On May 10, South Carolina government offices will close in observance of the state holiday.

Of the 11 Southern states that made up the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, few agreed on what date was best for remembrance once the war officially ended in 1865.

I suggest the 32d of December, myself.

State officials still mark Confederate Memorial Day on their calendars, but it makes sense why they may not want to embrace the holiday publicly, said John Neff, director of the Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi and a scholar of Civil War death and remembrance.

Dating back to 2000, the debates about whether states should fly the Confederate battle flag could be partially to blame, he explained. Several Southern states were embroiled in these fights, holding legislative votes and public referendums that revived the Confederacy as a politically sensitive issue.

That year in South Carolina, state legislators agreed to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capitol dome in Columbia. In a 2001 statewide referendum, a majority of Mississippi’s voters chose to keep the Confederate battle flag emblem on the state’s banner as it remains today. In 2003, Georgia rid itself of the Confederate battle flag from its state flag, following a legislative action and a public referendum.

All those words, yet PBS never manages to spell out why things Confederate are “a politically sensitive issue.” [whispers: it’s because of slavery.]

“It seems odd in many ways, but you don’t have to live in the South very long to know this is a deep connection that many people still feel,” he said.

Many people across the South claim the Confederacy as part of their heritage, he said.

“I can say this is very much a part of many white Southerners’ identity. This is how they feel connected to their place, their time, their families,” Neff said. “I think it’s going to be a long, long time before there’s no one in the South that feels those connections.”

We get it, and that’s kind of the issue, isn’t it. It’s part of many white Southerners’ identity, and that fact is fraught with all kinds of horrors.



  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Strange, if it were anything else, you’d think it would be part of all southerners’ identity, not just the white ones. That should be kinda (ok, a HUGE) red flag, no?

  2. says

    For quite some time, white Southerners actually refused to observe the national Memorial Day. In various places they also didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Not so many wave the flag or the other totems as have done in past generations, but plenty of white Americans still do. It’s worked deep into how the culture operates, inside and outside the South. The Second Klan controlled Indiana and Oregon for a while. White Northerners could be absolutely vicious even when they had slavery around for contrast, passing laws excluding black Americans from even living in entire states and demanding those present leave.

    It’s what we get for developing our ideas of freedom in the context of the evolving slave society in the Chesapeake. Freedom became white, slavery black, and black Americans thus permanent outsiders. It didn’t matter that they fought in the Revolution (for the last time until the Emancipation Proclamation, in fact) and black voters helped ratify the Constitution. A free black person was just a weird exception that roused considerable fears, never one of “us”. Whites had built an an “us” on their skin color, where all imagined themselves equal not by their material condition, not by their personal talents or potential, but rather by the peerless achievement of not choosing for themselves black skin.

    This no longer informs us as much as it once did, but we have a long way to go to raze the house that slavery built. Some of us will fight that effort all the way to the bitter end, as they have before. That probably doesn’t mean armies again, but it didn’t take armies to reduce freedpeople back to near-slavery either. White terrorism suffices.

  3. peterh says

    Them thar Rebs sure love themselves some (almost entirely fictitious) True Suth’un Martyrdom™.

  4. freemage says

    I was visiting my father-in-law in Baltimore a couple weeks ago, and we all went down to Gettysburg. It’s an impressive place–the fields largely stand as they did, and all around are monuments showing where different units arrived and first took their posts. You basically follow a map, along a driving tour that runs you through the key battles, ending with the spot where Lincoln gave the Address.

    The interesting thing, though, was those monuments I mentioned. See, they’re paid for by memorial organizations set up for the different units, and thus they all tend to talk about the valor and the courage and the sacrifice of the soldiers–which got very florid in the case of the Confederate units, paid for by organizations with names like, “The Daughters of the Confederacy” or somesuch.

    I’m really sorry if this sounds callous, but if the best and brightest moment of your ‘heritage’ is the time your great-great-grandpappy brought a saber to a cannon-fight, on behalf of a wealthy landowner who wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire, and got his ass kicked by a hick lawyer, a drunkard and a psychopath*, then maybe it’s time to let go of the past, eh?

    *: That would be Lincoln, Grant and Sherman, respectively. Sherman’s actions, by modern standards, would be considered war crimes, frankly.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    [whispers: it’s because of slavery.]

    (In a southern accent) Well bless your heart, Ophelia. The War Between the States wasn’t about slavery! No siree! It was about States Rights and how each lil’ ol’ state is a sovereign entity that gets to have its own lil’ peculiarities. Like, eating corn bread soaked in milk, or barbecuing a hog in a pit, or owning people as property. We each just have our own special ways, that’s all!


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