Ketanji Jackson and the Confederate Flag

(March 21, 2022) According to today’s New York Times, President Biden’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was a heroine during her freshman year at Harvard. Eighteen-year-old Ketanji Jackson was heroic because she encouraged other black students protesting a Confederate Battle Flag suspended from a dormitory window to resist a temptation to use the protest as an excuse to skip classes. Like the other protestors she was convinced the flag symbolized nothing but hatred of blacks, but felt it was irresponsible to use it as an excuse to miss classes. For that modest nod toward personal responsibility the fawning Times article portrays her as a superwoman. 

The incident happened 34 years ago when most Americans regarded the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride. As a black girl who may have learned to associate the flag with its shameful appropriation by racial segregationists and white supremacists when her parents were her age, she was entitled to her opinion and to her freedom to express it without censorship. But what she wanted, and eventual got, was the privilege to transform American society into one that completely forbids the symbol. Today Judge Jackson’s interpretation dominates. Most any contrary opinion is censored by a dictatorial cancel culture or governing institutions, such as colleges, Corporate America, and government bodies at all levels. The situation is merely one indication of a cultural that has convinced itself that men can transform themselves into women and vice versa. 

Nonetheless, most Americans still regarded the flag as a regional pride symbol until a few years ago. In 2017, for example, the American Battlefield Trust surveyed subscribers to their Hallowed Ground magazine and learned that 97% wanted Confederate statutes to remain on National Battlefield Parks. Almost 85% did not want Confederate monuments removed from other locations. Significantly, nearly two-thirds of the respondents were descended from Union soldiers. In fact, only 22% were from the former Confederate states.

Any claim that postbellum Confederate statues were erected, and flags displayed, chiefly to perpetuate white supremacy is a myth. At least five percent of the white population of the eleven Confederate states, from which the government drew her soldiers, were killed during the Civil War. If America were to go to war presently and suffer the same death ratio, the number of killed would total seventeen million. That is more than forty times the number of American deaths during World War II. 

Given the magnitude of such losses, nobody with common sense could believe that the prime motive to erect and display memorials to seventeen million dead in a hypothetical contemporary war would be anything other than to honor their memory. For that reason, claims by the cultural elite and Judge Ketanji Jackson that Confederate symbols are primarily intended to celebrate white supremacy are falsehoods.

Moreover, the current race-centric narratives about Southern Reconstruction only exacerbate the problem. While there is no denying that condemnable white-on-black violence was sometimes used to help free the South of Carpetbag Rule, the Civil War threw the entire South into poverty.

For purposes of argument, let it be accepted that slavery permitted the antebellum South to be the World’s low-cost producer of cotton. How is it then, that the South remained the World’s low-cost producer for sixty-five years after the war ended? The answer, which academia mostly ignores, is that the entire region was thrown into poverty. Until about 1940 half the sharecroppers were white and their economic conditions were nearly identical to those of black sharecroppers. Both used tools comparable to those of nineteenth century Russian serfs. Not until 1950 did the South’s per capita income percentile ranking return to the same below average level of 1860, ninety years earlier. According to a 1938 Report on Economic Conditions in the South prepared for President Franklin Roosevelt, Southern sharecroppers were lucky to earn 25-cents a day, regardless of their race.   

 

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