Yesterday's Donald Trump made white supremacists great again post featured American historian Heather Cox Richardson's July 9 letter about the history of the 14th Amendment giving blacks the same rights as whites, My comment under Heather's letter drew some interesting comments.
Born in Dothan, Alabama (my parents couldn't afford the rents in Tallahassee, Fla.) my maternal family was part of the homesteader giveaway of the tribal lands to white settlers in Florida during the 19th century. My great-great grandfather was orphaned in the last so-called Seminole Indian war. My great-grandfather was a "cracker" - herding the offspring of the cattle that flourished in the scrubland (the Spanish left their livestock behind when they deserted St. Augustine.) He settled around Palatka, built 3 Southern Baptist Churches, and bought up lots of "shantytown" property in Palatka and Jacksonville. He was also a leader in the KKK. The KKK was the Lions Club, the Scouts for kids and the women's auxiliary back then. Anyone who thinks the Klan is a bygone nightmare does not know Florida.
My Florida family (not all, but most) has not changed a bit in its thinking. Having jumped on the Trump-Qanon bandwagon, they seem to hope for the South to rise again. Anyone who thinks the times have changed for the better in Florida is naive to the seething racism that is bred in the bone of all but those of us who have managed by grace or good fortune to escape its clutches and see the truth about the sins of our fathers.
I left the church forever at age 16 - I just couldn't stand the hypocrisy anymore.
Every time I hear or see the words "White Conservative Christian" My skin crawls. We kids would sing "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white - they are precious in his sight." What empty words those were to the grownups in our lives. They were the "feel good" with which they clothed themselves.
I did come back to church when Union Theological Seminary gave me a scholarship to study with some of the great social justice scholars, among them the mother of Black Womanist Theology Katie Cannon, father of Black Liberation Theology James Cone, Cornel West, Gary Dorrien and Rev. Donna Schaper at Judson Memorial Church in the Village. My gratitude to these great thinkers is boundless.
My mother and stepfather moved from Pennsylvania to Temple Terrace, a Tampa suburb, when he became a member of the charter faculty when University of South Florida opened. An interesting displacement for my mother, who was 17 when Hitler took her country. My father had primary custody of me so I was raised in upstate New York and spent summers with my mother. I quickly learned to use Ma’am and Sir when addressing any adult, a habit by the end of the summer that got me in trouble at my northern high school for sassing the teachers.
My mother had a black maid who came one day a week to clean. After the maid had read her copy of Ebony magazine, my mother would borrow it. We had a school fundraiser selling magazine subscriptions and I (in my still northern innocence) gifted my mother with her own subscription. There was a great uproar in that all white neighborhood when word went around about it. It finally settled when the neighbors concluded that university professors were (shudder) liberals and she was a foreigner who didn’t know better.
Thank you for this. The Southern Baptist church, I'm sure you know, broke and reformed when the Baptist Church condemned slavery. They kept their vile misinterpretation of the Bible and kept their slaves. It took courage for you to do what you did. My life as a musician and then theologian has been blessed with many gay and trans men and women, without whom I cannot imagine coming this far. Many of those friends I lost in the 80s and early 90s to the AIDS epidemic, for me and for many a personal and spiritual catastrophe.By the way, the church of my childhood was the University Baptist Church in Coral Gables - now called Christ Journey. I have no idea what goes on there now and don't really want to know.
Interestingly enough, as a boy I was very interested in Civil War history (growing up in a house that had quite a bit of family heirloom Civil War memorabilia - from the Union side). I read a lot of Bruce Catton, whose histories (and novels) were very popular then. I recently ran across one of the novels and read it through and - with today's eyes - the book (though allegedly written from a "neutral" perspective) has the Northeners very respectful of the Southerners who are "men of principle" fighting for "states' rights" and there are literally no black characters and virtually no mention of slavery. I can remember my father telling me how his Civil War veteran great-grandfather (the one who I later learned studying our family history was the son of a Quaker Abolitionist who let his son leave the church to go fight for Abolition) told him the war was not fought to free the slaves, but rather to "save the Union." This is how the Great Lie settled over the country in the years of 'reconciliation" after Reconstruction, to the point a man who went to war for abolition of slavery came to believe that was not the reason he went to war. And this was a man who spent 10 months as a POW in Libby Prison in Richmond.
The South's money crop was cotton. "Dixie" is about old times in the land of cotton. Who picked cotton in the South? Black slaves. What would happen to the South's economy if there were no black slaves? Indeed, the Civil War was about states' rights. The Confederate states' rights to have black slaves to pick their cotton. Today, when I hear a white patriotic American back America's foreign wars, such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, which sure looked to me like rich white men's wars for corporate profit, I wonder if black service men and women, who fought in those wars were still picking rich white men's cotton? After he got cold feet about Vietnam, President Kennedy was killed. After he opposed the Vietnam war as a rich white man's war, Martin Luther King was killed.
So sadly, you may be on to something.
Sloan BashinskyOccam's razor, the simplest answer is the correct answer?
Link to Washington Post article about taking down Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues in Charlottesville, VA