Stop the finger pointing — both the Union and the Confederacy were full of racists.

I have this pet peeve when it comes to discussion of the War of Southern Secession and it is the people who finger point saying that such and such person or group was racists as if that ad hominem somehow settles everything there is pertaining to the war. Newsflash for the unaware: the entire United States was FULL of racists. It was ingrained in the culture and it was wrong but it was there nonetheless. It was in the South, it was in the North, it was in the East, it was in the West. It was everywhere.

Some common finger pointing statements:

There were few slaves in the North. Typically pointed out by people who are anti-Confederacy.True, but the majority of northerners still treated people of color as sub-human. Additionally, many made money off the slave trade even after getting rid of their own slaves because their issue with it wasn’t slavery itself but having to be in near proximity with people of color.

Many of the slaves in the South were treated well and didn’t wish to leave their owners after being freed. Typically pointed out by people who are anti-Union and usually when they are feeling defensive. This is quite subjective but there is evidence to support it as well. However, no matter how well you are treated being a slave means your life decisions are in the hands of someone else.

Neither of the above statements prove that either side had the moral superiority when it comes to slavery. I can think of racist southerners as well as southerners who went out of their way to free the slaves they had inherited before abolition because they felt it was immoral. I can think of abolitionist northerners but I can also think of northerners who didn’t want slavery to end, owned slaves of their own, thought people of color sub-human, and/or were known to abuse their slaves. The fact is that there were crappy people then and there are crappy people now and none of the above means a thing when it comes down to a discussion of the war. The stereotypes hurt everyone.

If some of the above is all you know to say when debating the war it’s time to do some more research and come up with some legitimate talking points.

6 thoughts on “Stop the finger pointing — both the Union and the Confederacy were full of racists.

    • . ‘And our place under the warm bank in Captain Faramir’s country, the day I saw an olhpaiunt?”No, I am afraid not, Sam,’ said Frodo. ‘At least, I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades’……stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure [Frodo] robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire.]As memory of life’s simple wonders diminish in Frodo’s mind, he also looses the capacity for pity.As a combat veteran of the “Great War”, Tolkien may have experienced this for himself and saw it at work in others….Mark Huber, Richmond.Tolkien understood dreams and the imagination and understood the depths of darkness and hope, in the presence and absence of which man’s waking moments are so dependent.Your quote is a great reminder of the necessity of holding onto that which we cannot see for survival of mind and body. A letter written by Henry Graves, cited above, near Petersburg, 1862, evokes the gift of the imagination and dreams in survival but I thought you might like to see more of that particular letter than the brief quote above in my first post: Having been detailed three or four days since on one of my favorite little “working squads” for the purpose of digging trenches, I have not had the opportunity to write you before this. I do so love to dig ditches and spade up dirt, especially when the sun is as hot as it ever gets to be in central Ethiopia! The weather has been intolerably hot here for the past three or four days, the sun pouring down and not a breath of air stirring. Standing with a spade in my hand on top of a big bank of red clay or with a mattock in a deep broad ditch, I would, in order to pass off time, imagine myself at home with my coat off, sitting out in the east end of the piazza at home, enjoying the cool breeze that almost always is blowing fresh through there, with a basket of peaches at my side and all the homefolk around. This is the way I employ myself when I get into an unpleasant place, and, by this means, the time passes much more swiftly and pleasantly. I don’t know what poor mortals and especially soldier mortals would do if they were not blessed with the gift of imagination and the pictures of hope. There are, besides these two angels of mercy, others fully as welcome and kind, which now and then visit the poor soldier.Night dreams, for instance, are as a general thing much more vivid than day dreams Henry goes on to describe the importance of holding onto that which refreshes him and brings him close to those he loves and those who care about him in the night. Even though the reality of the image dissipates upon waking, the sense of it lingers and sustains him through the darkest events of the day.

  1. I followed with faoanictisn, the discussion of how and why the Emancipation Proclamation was not made applicable to the states of Kentucky and Maryland. I look forward to listening for more Backstories from the History Guys. I have some questions of my own for which there could be an interesting “backstory.”Today the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), describes certain anxiety and behavioral symptoms that many soldiers who have witnessed the trauma/s of war manifest in someway or another. All too often this is negative behavior that is damaging to the individual, his family, and his ability to become a productive member of the society that he returns to.Did combatants from the Civil War suffer something like this disorder? If so, did it have a name back then and how prevalent was it? Do we know anything of its consequence on families and society, north and south, trying to pick up after the War? Moreover, as a Viet Nam War veteran, I have particular interest in knowing how Confederate war veterans managed after the Civil War.From Ken Burns’ great epic, we saw the tragedy and trauma of the Civil War projected through the eyes of frontline soldiers in the open, loving and genuine lines of letters home. While all soldiers in all wars share some things in common, I recall having a powerful epiphany during one episode , , at how uniquely close the feelings of the Confederate soldier, having lost his war, must have been to those of us who lost our war, in Viet Nam. Has there been any study or serious scholarship done on the possible similarity of feelings (noble cause thought to be fighting for at start; anger at human loss expended in vain for a wrong cause that was lost) unique to these two wars?Ed Tick has written extensively about PTSD and uses a term, Soldier’s Heart, which was first coined in the Civil War to describe a condition described then as wartime anxiety disorder that manifested in symptoms that appeared to mimic heart disease but showed no physical change to the physical heart. Jacob Mendes Da Costa began writing about the condition during the Civil War,noticing anxiety disorders and dramatic behaviors in soldiers who came off the Civil War battlefields. Named after him, it was called Da Costa’s Syndrome, colloquially known as Soldier’s Heart. Judith Pizarro, M.A., (along with Drs. Roxane C. Silver and JoAnn Prause), wrote a paper on Soldier’s Heart in 2006: “Physical and mental health costs of traumatic war experiences among Civil War veterans,” published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (Feb 2006, Vol. 63, No. 2, pp. 193-200). Their research determined that nearly two in five Civil War veterans later developed both mental and physical ailments such as heart disease and gastrointestinal problems and that soldiers who enlisted between the ages of 9 and 17 were nearly twice as likely to suffer. Numbers rose for those who witnessed death, handled dead bodies, and for those who lost comrades. In describing her interest in this subject, Judith Pizarro responded: “My great-grandfathers on both sides were both Union Veterans. My mother’s grandfather was in a Confederate prison camp and my father’s grandfather was a 17-year old soldier who participated in Sherman’s march to the sea. My mother’s grandfather was an alcoholic and set off three generations (so far) of alcoholism in that branch of the family. My father’s grandfather deserted my great-grandmother as a result of his PTSD from Sherman’s march. She was left to raise my grandmother and her sister on her own. She was very angry, and constantly told my grandmother how worthless her father was, and how untrustworthy men were in general. That whole experience brought about severe anxiety and migraine headaches in my grandmother, which affected all the children in the family, but most of all, my father.”In my own research, I have read a number of letters describing soldiers experiencing nightmares and one journal in which a wife pleads for help because her husband has returned home and is no longer recognizable as the same person. His nightmares are violent and extend into the day. He threatens the children and must be tied to the bed so that he does not damage himself or members of the family.I suspect one would find similar stories throughout written history.

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