Several years ago, a pro-South pastor told me that even the most hardcore, traditionalist Southerners in our own day are reconstructed to one degree or another. Though I hate to admit it, I think he is correct.
You see, there is a great gulf between what most “Confederate” Southerners believe in 2014 and what their ancestors believed a century or more ago. The purpose of this article is to point out how our thinking has changed over that time span, why it changed, and what we can—and must—do about it now if the true South is to survive.
White Man’s Country
1n 1928, historian Ulrich B. Phillips called the South “a white man’s country.” [“The Central Theme of Southern History,” American Historical Review 34 (October 1928), p. 31.] From the beginning of their history in the early 17th century, Southerners had taken this statement as an unchallenged fact, and the presence of an alien race in their midst drove it home with added emphasis. Few if any Southerners, or for that matter Northerners, believed in racial equality at the time of the War for Southern Independence nor in the decades to follow. That Phillips made his non-controversial (at the time) statement more than six decades after the end of that war speaks volumes about the stubbornness of what is now vilified as “white supremacy.” Thus, I think it is safe to say that our Confederate ancestors and their descendants for at least two generations would qualify as “racists” and “white supremacists” by today’s definitions of the terms.
By the late 1880s, there was a movement afoot to create a New South to replace what had been lost during the war and subsequent Reconstruction. On the face of it, it would seem that this New South would lay its foundation by repudiating the racial ideas of the Old South. But one of the most famous disciples of the New South, Henry Grady of Atlanta, thought differently. Grady stated in an 1888 speech about the New South:
“. . . the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards, because the white race is the superior race… [This declaration] shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts”. [G. Myrdal and S. Bok, An American dilemma: the Negro problem and modern democracy, p. 1354].
Thus not only men of the Old South and the Confederacy held these “racist” views, but so did many of those who represented the New South a century or so ago. Things indeed have changed!
Six decades into the 20th century many in the South continued to hold these views regarding race relations. Alabama Governor George C. Wallace proclaimed in his 1963 inaugural address to shouts of approval in Alabama and across the South (and other regions): “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Thus not only men of the Old South, the Confederacy, and the New South held these “racist” views, but so did many who lived during our own childhood and young adult years. Things indeed have changed . . . and in a relatively short time.
Our Ancestors Said What!?!
Let’s return for a moment to the war era. There are few men Southerners, including Rainbow Confederates, hold in higher esteem that General Robert E. Lee, the epitome of the Southern gentleman-warrior. Surely no modern Southerner who claims to be pro-Confederate could (or would) take issue with General Lee! So let us see what Lee had to say about slavery some five years before the outbreak of war:
“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, and while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former.”[R.E. Lee to his wife, December 27, 1856].
Did you get that? While Lee sympathizes with the plight of the black race in regard to slavery, his main concern is with the institution’s effects on his own people, and this is as it should be. Can you imagine the media hue and cry today if someone made such a statement? How dare a white man stand up for the interests of his own people! Next thing you know, his car will be sporting the bumper sticker “I wish we’d have picked our own cotton.”
Confederate Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens also recognized the importance of keeping the South under firm control of whites. The CSA Constitution, Stephens noted, set forth “the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.” Dismissing the Enlightenment-inspired notion that “all men are created equal,” he posited that “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid. Its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”[Quoted in Don E. Fehrenbacher and Ward M. McAfee, eds., The Slaveholding Republic: An Account of the United States Government’s Relations to Slavery (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 307].
When Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued his own response:
“We may well leave it to the instinct of that common humanity, which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow‑men of all countries, to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race—peaceful, contented laborers in their sphere—are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation ‘to abstain from violence, unless in necessary self‑defense.’”[Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, 2 vols. (1881; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press Facsimile Edition), vol. 2, p. 600.]
The authors of the Texas Secession Act concluded that “in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator . . . while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.”
Henry L. Benning of Georgia, after whom Fort Benning is named, declared: “By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand that?” Benning rightly feared that the abolitionists program would lead to a result in which “We [Southerners] will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa or St. Domingo.”[Quoted in Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001), pp. 66–67.]
And as the final example of the “racist” Confederate of yesteryear, Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney on race-mixing:
“The offspring of an amalgamation must be a hybrid race incapable of the career of civilization and glory as an independent race. And this apparently is the destiny which our conquerors have in view. If indeed they can mix the blood of the heroes of Manassas with this vile stream from the fens of Africa, then they will never again have occasion to tremble before the righteous resistance of Virginia freemen; but will have a race supple and vile enough to fill that position of political subjugation, which they desire to fix on the South.”
I could go on but you get the point. Our ancestors, whom we claim to respect and admire, tend to make some Southerners just a bit uncomfortable in this more enlightened age.
Over the Rainbow
I have not seen the Rainbow Confederates discuss these kinds of statements from Lee, Stephens, Davis, Benning, Dabney, and others. On the contrary, they prefer to point out, for instance, that Lee was not a slaveholder and that U.S. Grant was. Or that Davis adopted a black boy into his family. So Lee and his compatriots were the archetypes of the modern anti-racist liberal and Grant and his of the conservative racist reactionary? Well, this just won’t fly.
My late friend Samuel Francis cut right to the bone on this matter:
“If Lee were to return today and make his remarks in a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or similar organizations, he would meet with, at best, a very chilly reception. It is almost certain that his views would be publicly repudiated by persons in leadership positions. Indeed, it is quite conceivable that someone holding the racial views of Lee, Jefferson Davis, or Alexander H. Stephens would be requested to leave or even be formally expelled from most Southern heritage organizations. Such is the extent to which public discussion of the race issue has been suppressed in our country and even in our region.” [Race and the South, Part 1].
Before we move along, I’d like to address this question: Just what do you mean when you use the term “Rainbow Confederates?” While Lee, Davis, Stephens, and other Southern leaders before and after them focused on the interests of their own people, many modern Southerners have taken quite the opposite approach. While they obviously don’t deny the heroism and accomplishments of white Confederates, they have chosen to include non-whites in the story as well. Now what could be wrong with this, you ask? Were there not blacks, Jews, Indians, and Hispanics fighting in the Confederate ranks? And if so, why not celebrate that diversity? After all, it will prove that our ancestors were not “racists!”
And therein lies the problem. Southerners no longer have the courage to proclaim that their ancestors—white men and women like them—could possibly be justified except by fighting beside various and sundry non-white allies. In other words, the historic South was not really “racist” but was a society that valued multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance as much as any modern liberal utopia, and in this was its only true value.
Notice, however, that I’m not saying a person is a Rainbow Confederate if he merely is interested in the historical accuracy of who fought for whom. After all, history is history. I am saying a person is a Rainbow Confederate if he takes that position in order to placate the Cultural Marxists and to justify the Southern cause in the name of political correctness.
But weren’t there really blacks, Jews, Indians, and Hispanics who fought for the Confederacy? Yes, there were a few. But, for instance, the matter of “black Confederates” has been overblown, and I believe for politically correct purposes. It was not until mid-March 1865, less than a month before Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox, that the Confederate Congress in secret session, facing much hard opposition and by a one-vote margin, approved the recruitment of blacks into the ranks of the Southern armies as combat soldiers. [William W. Freehling, The South v. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2001), p. 195.] Before this, the idea had been shot down many times as unwise and even immoral. Most blacks who served with the armies of the CSA did so as official non-combatants.
The plain fact of the matter is that the Confederate armies were led and staffed overwhelmingly by white men. And they were fighting for the particular interests of their own Folk.
Pity the Poor Rainbow
So if the South was right—and she was—then why are there Rainbow Confederates in 2014? In my humble opinion, I think that my pastor friend indeed was correct. We Southerners have allowed ourselves to be reconstructed, which means we have permitted ourselves to believe lies because it was the easy path to tread.
Rainbow Confederates are to be pitied because they have allowed the Cultural Marxists of our own day to cow them into submission. As Sam Francis said, they have been “psychologically whipped by the incessant barrage of racial hate propaganda aimed at them” by the left that now dominates the public sphere of the American regime.
The way out of the hole into which we stumbled is simple (I did not say easy). We must learn the truth and tell it. And it must then guide our actions in everything we do, consequences be damned. That attitude is the last thing the Cultural Marxists want to see from Southerners.
So when they call you a “racist” or a “white supremacist,” remember that they would have called your Southern ancestors that as well. Thus you are in good company with Lee, Davis, Stephens, and a host of other honorable men. Laugh in your accuser’s face and relish that good company!