In a contentious discussion, on another of my websites, about the removal of monuments to the failed Confederacy that history shows lost the Civil War many years ago, a recurring theme of those who permeated their comments with anger, hate and obscenities declared that another armed revolution is needed to “turn the government back over to the real America.”
Which begs the obvious question: What is the “real” America?
Is it the nation fashioned by founding fathers who believed that only property-owning white males should be considered citizens?
That was the America that emerged from the founders, based on the language of the Declaration of Independence and the articles that later emerged from the original Constitution.
That America was a land where only white men who owned property could vote, where women had no rights, even one to vote, and blacks were slaves with no rights at all.
It took the 19th amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1920, the right to vote nationwide in the United States, more than a century after the creation of the “real” America. Abraham Lincoln supposed “freed” the slaves in 1863 but it took longer for African Americans to get into the voting booths and some Southern states still try to block blacks from voting to this day.
As a Southerner who learned to hate discrimination and integration before he became a teenager, I learned to despise the racism still exists in our society. I saw and felt its hatred and wrath as an elementary student in Prince Edward County, Virginia, when the Klan-controlled school board and county supervisors closed the public schools to defy a federal court order to integrate and created an all-white “private school” supported by tax dollars.
When I snuck through the dark woods not far from Farmville laid on my belly to focus my Yashica Mat twin-lens reflex camera on a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, I faced taunts,insults and beatings from fellow students after it was published in a newspaper. An essay, also published, about a racial condition that allowed white kids to get an education while black children had no school to attend led to more fights.
At one point, my mother considered sending me to Florida to live with my paternal grandparents so I could go to an integrated public school in Hillsborough County or to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where my stepfather thought I could “learn some needed discipline.” Instead, our family left Prince Edward and moved to Floyd County, where the schools were integrated.
I accept and admit a strong bias against those who feel the American Civil War was “not really about slavery.” The claim that the debate that led to secession was about “states’ rights” was, in my opinion, a cover because the right they wanted to most protect was the one to own and abuse slaves.
“You don’t sound like a true white man,” said a commenter in the discussion on the removal of memorials to Civil War “heroes.”
“I bet there is some n—– blood in your veins,” he added.
Perhaps. I do have some “black Irish” as part of my primarily Scottish ancestry although that term has nothing to do with skin tone. I do not consider myself “white” or any other color. I’m about a quarter Seminole. My paternal great grandmother was a proud and full-blooded Seminole who lived near Lake Okeechobee in Florida.
My wife, who is a mixture of Lebanese and Irish, calls herself “beige” and smiles when she says so. We do not accept the notion that any race or gender is superior to another. We do not accept the rabid preachings that any religion can, or should, proclaim superiority over another. A belief in God, we feel, is a personal one. So is a belief in another power or perhaps no such power.
First, and foremost, we consider ourselves Americans and the history of our America came out of a diverse gathering of individuals who came from various heritages, believes, genders and races.
The “real America,” we feel, is one that must evolve with the times and the realities of a changing world. An America that lives in the past cannot survive. An America that adapts and evolves serves its citizens bdst and looks to the future with optimism and hope.