For me, times and issues of controversy are moments not just to get angry and pick a side, but also a time for reflection. I reflect upon what is making me and others mad. I reflect on why I and others are mad. And then I occasionally reflect on what should, or could, be done about it.
Take for instance, the confederate flag thing that has been going on. Everyone is digging up all their racial issues and hating people from the past for the racist things they did, not a few are demanding that those who are born from those who did bad things be made to pay for what their ancestors did, or make reparations, or simply shut up and take the beatings. From Amazon to Walmart, freedom of speech and expression deemed racist is silenced, and those who protest are made fun of.
To the point where we’ve not only whipped around and have essentially started to be racist based on skin color again (yeah, I know, racism is power + privilege and black people can’t possibly be racists because they don’t have the Power).
So here we are and we’re really ignoring that the Confederate Flag means some good things to some people, like social liberty, state independence, self determination, and the unbroken will of the Scotts-Irish Southerners to resist yet another example of English Supremacy via the Northerners. But hey, we don’t need to talk about the violent oppression of the Scottish and Irish by the English, because redheads have no souls, and #irishlivesdontmatter. Because despite the fact that “White” Appalachia and much of the South is still the poorest, least economically advanced, and often enough makes Detroit look Palacial, place, it was only Black people who suffered after the Civil War. And white people have never had to struggle or suffer in their entire history.
Everyone struggled. Everyone suffered. The South was largely settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants trying to escape the brutality of the English in both the UK and in the Northern States. Hel, the Irish were enslaved right off the boat in New York and sent to go kill their fellows in the South the instant they got of the boat.
But we’re not here to talk about the history everyone wants to ignore for the sake of the #yesallwhitepeople narrative. We’re here to talk about why I no longer give a fuck about the racism of the past.
Say you lived back then, during the times of slavery or even before the Civil Rights movement. Odd are, if you were white, you were probably some form of Racist. Not because you were inherently evil. Everyone was racist. Japan had a policy of killing any non-Japanese person that stepped on their Island. Africans were selling each other off as slaves as fast as they go around raping and murdering and ethnically cleansing each other today. The only difference is there were more survivors because those people were worth money, now they’re barely worth digging a ditch.* The Muslims were importing twice as many slaves from Africa as the Europeans, and still doing raids on Europe to get more slaves and kill Christians. So everyone thought they were the superior race and they were bound and determined to let everyone else know it.
So, really, you wouldn’t have been different from anyone else.
“But Lucius!” you protest with teary eyes as my divine judgements make you evil, “I could never believe that one human life was worth less than another!”
Are you a rational human being? Do you believe that science and its Facts can be trusted to be true, honest, and created with rigorous scientific experimentation, because Scientists inherently seek to understand the true nature of the world?
“Well, yes of course,” you reply, “science tells us about the important things, like how diseases work, the dangers of global warming, and gives us wonderful things like my Apple iWatch!”
Well then, you would have been a racist. Because up through the 60’s science was telling everyone that Blacks were not as evolved as “Whites.” And they did it all very scientifically with the most cutting edge sciences of their day. Anthropologists compared cultures, other scientists tested cognitive skills, skull and muscular growth, brain sizes, etc, etc, etc.
And pretty much every scientific field out there said “Hey, everyone, black people are little more than animals!”
And so the rest of the world pretty much shrugged and said. “Okay.”
And it wasn’t just whites. Asians thought it. Arabs thought it. Latino’s thought it. Science preached it, and the people bought it with the same force and verb that we today buy science’s teachings on Climate Change, produces with the most cutting edge of scientific abilities.
So really, I’m supposed to hate an entire race of people because they believed in rationally produced evidence from the leading scientific minds of their day? Gods, I hope no one considers me a genocidal monster for trying to stop Climate Change and save the planet in the future. **
And then, of course, there’s the other side of it too. Economics. Slavery was about manual labor, no one disputes this. It was about making black people do the agricultural work for or along side white people in order to produce enough cotton and foodstuffs to clothe and feed an entire nation’s worth of people. There were no tractors, John Deer wasn’t a twinkle in anybody’s eye for thousands of years, much less the first few hundred of what would be the States.
And both blacks and whites were enslaved to start off with. Black slavery only really took supremacy because a High Court decided to sentence a black man to life in slavery and an Irish man to about a couple decades of slavery. At which point, life time slavery became Legal. Had that court case not happened, it is arguable that slavery as we know it probably would not have happened. We’d probably still have slaves today, because a) anyone could be a slave, b) slavery would have been for a set number of years, and c) that’s how slavery had pretty much existed since the dawn of time. It just became economically sound to have a black slave you didn’t have to release after 7-16 years and it was perfectly legal.
So I’m supposed to hate an entire race because they obeyed the Law? Gods, I hope future generations don’t consider me a humongous bigot for standing up for Marriage Equality. ***
To top it off, slavery was codified as morally acceptable in the Bible. People were much more religious back then, and they took their moral guidance not from “feelings of the universe” or by consulting tarot cards (not that those are not fine ways to discover a moral direction), nor even really consulting the historical texts of their ancestors (also a good way to gain moral direction), but by reading a book of holy teachings and listening to the learned men (and women) of their day who had the time and education to ponder the big moral philosophy questions of their days. Because most people were too damn busy trying to make ends meet. Like always.
And nearly all of these religious and moral authorities came out and said “Yeah, slavery is cool. You shouldn’t bee excessively brutal about it, but God said it was okay, and I like to wear clothes.”
So I’m supposed to hate an entire race of people based on the fact that they listened to the ethical experts of their time? Gods I hope future generations don’t think us bigots because we questioned gender stereotypes in video games or worked to end that wage gap between men and women!
So so far, not only was slavery lawful, the whole racism business was backed up by the leading science of the day, there were no other economic choices, and we’re talking about a practice that had existed since the dawn of time and was codified in the religious texts and judged morally acceptable.
So really, it would kind of be like hating someone for driving a car because they have to go to work, or hating people for trying to protect the environment, or obeying a law that says they can get married, or a woman can have an abortion, or any number of social and economic activities we practice today because somewhere, down the line, someone decides that what we found acceptable was morally repugnant to them. And I think that’s really where a lot of this anger comes from.
It’s not being angry at the past. I think it’s fear. Fear that if we do not strike hard enough at these “horrible things in history,” we will be judged by future generations to be as horrible. But really, that’s going to happen anyways. Because people are stupid, and vindictive, and always want to think that they’re better than those that came before. And if you can’t imagine us being judged badly for things like Climate Change, Gay Marriage, or Driving Cars, then you’re in the same boat as every one of those people in the past who thought Racism was okay, because Science, Religion, Economics, and the Law all said “Yeah, you’re an okay person who believes what the smart people tell you.”
Is this to say bad things weren’t done? By today’s standards, bad things were done. But by the standards they had back then, they were good, lawful, scientifically minded people. And we like to think ourselves as good, lawful, scientifically minded people. But science changes is facts, religions change their morals, and laws change their legalities. But we shouldn’t hate people for what they did back then if it was socially acceptable, anymore than we would want future generations to do the same to us. People and their views change over time. It may well come a day when we are viewed as the moral degenerates.
So don’t judge too harshly. Forgive a little. Just because you accept a behavior doesn’t mean you have to do it. Hating long dead people for doing the right thing at the time is as about as useful as well, trying to stick C-3PO back together with bubblegum.
* #slaverysaveslives anyone?
** Given that many Climatologists do seem to be talking about the need to reduce the global population to about 2 billion at most though…genocide does seem to be on the table even if no one is talking about it openly.
*** I mean, it’s not like we didn’t culturally appropriate marriage from heterosexual people because we wanted legal benefits that we could have gotten a different way, or started laughing at their tears as soon as we’d won or anything. Nahhhh.