Just got back in from heading to the “beach” with my buddy, soaking in some rays until the wind got so bad that after only 45 minutes we decided to retreat. Had sand blasted everywhere! Especially in my scalp. Took two washings to get it all off me.
Anyway, while we were driving back I got to thinking about modern life, as I’m prone to do, and where it’s headed and how we got to this point. He and I had been chatting about automated/self-driving cars during lunch (which the news now refers to as “autonomous cars” — ugh, so much for driver autonomy — nearly everything these days looks to be blatant propaganda). This is all part of a larger ongoing conversation between us. And it dawned on me today that, despite so many claiming America’s fall began around the time of the World Wars, I actually believe it stems further back in time. Perhaps at the Civil War. Allow me to explain.
The Civil War was a major display of power by the (Northern) United States government in refusing to allow the Confederacy to secede from the Union. Now—without getting into details about the Civil War specifically since that’s not the issue here today—what right did the North have to refuse to allow Southern states to go their own way on their own volition? Well, it wasn’t about Right, it was about MIGHT. The North prevailed and the South was kept against its citizens’ collective will. Why? Likely economic reasons primarily. And for purposes of furthering power.
What’s most interesting are the consequences that resulted from that move. Southern states, generally speaking, remain among the poorest states in the Union with two states (Arkansas and Mississippi) boasting the poorest education systems, to boot. And consider this — had the South been allowed to secede, along with the black slaves who lived there, nowadays it would be Southerners primarily blamed for racism, slavery, and likely all other perceived wrongs in U.S. history. It’s highly possible the South would’ve eventually abolished slavery on its own (but how they might’ve gone about it probably would’ve differed from how it actually wound up being done). Slavery was quickly becoming an outdated mode of economics within what were rising to become First World nations. But either way, because the South wasn’t allowed to go its own way and figure out its race relations situation on its own, now the entire country winds up blamed for that historic era. Even the Germans who settled in the Midwest in the 1870s and later, AFTER slavery was already abolished. They too commonly wind up lumped into the generic category of “White People” and are disdained equally as if they too somehow benefited from the black slave’s historic plight.
The ironic point I’m driving at here is that had the power of the (Northern) government left the South to secede, ya’ll wouldn’t be dealing with some of the societal problems cropping up in terms of race relations since the 1960s. The freed blacks (approximately 10% of all blacks brought to the U.S., according to Thomas Sowell) tended to live in the northeast where they were assimilating and doing quite well educationally and financially. The onslaught of Southern blacks with a whole different background of experiences migrating to the North caused all kinds of chaos people were unprepared to deal with, which in turn did lead to a rise in racial hostility (of course, in all fairness, the North wasn’t too pleased when Southern white folks moved up that way either and clearly stated so at the time). Different cultures, as Dr. Sowell laid out so well in his books Intellectuals and Race and Black Rednecks and White Liberals. Didn’t turn out to mesh well. Most black folks had more in common with white southerners than they did with northerners of either race. Different European ethnic groups populated separate regions, as we know. Not a lot of Italians roaming around Alabama talking about how their great-great-grandpas were born on that land. Heh
Anyway, the major problem of resolving racial tensions could’ve been left for the South to iron out on its own since it had the largest population of black people (and still does). But no. The North meddled and now the whole country is in a tizzy since it’s assumed that all white folks automatically possess an advantage over all black folks (cue the racism diatribe). The North could’ve handled their own affairs and enjoyed the black folks who were successfully assimilating into their New England culture and left the South to handle their population in accordance with their own culture and values (and as these have been evolving in the time since). But no. Oh no. That didn’t happen. And now we see how many Southerners, of both/all races, are dependent on government welfare, both as individuals and as whole states. Mississippi would go bankrupt immediately if it attempted to secede today — too dependent on Federal aid.
When the South lost the war, its culture also took a blow. Southerners were then expected to assimilate and accept Northern values. Never happened. Resistance and rebellion turned more passive aggressive, yet it didn’t go away. Just simmered and stewed ever since. AND the black folks with generational ties to the Southland spread out throughout the nation and contributed what we now know of as the ghetto mentality. Why? Because ghettoism is a spin-off from Southern culture. Sounds strange, I know, but if you look closely enough you can see the similarities (once again, Dr. Thomas Sowell did a superb job of explaining this — way better than I can attempt here). So, in a real sense, had the Civil War not gone as it did and had this nation been broken in two, far-flung places like Minneapolis and Los Angeles might not be home to so many black ghettos today. Why would they be? The Northern blacks were highly educated and rising in power and prestige. They weren’t facing the same obstacles as the Southern blacks were, quite obviously. Jim Crow likely wouldn’t have arisen outside of the South either.
It might’ve been nice to have two social experiments operating simultaneously while influenced by differing cultures and values. I wonder what solutions and/or compromises might otherwise have been reached. But instead people were forced to be hodge-podged together, brewing deepening resentment that became a hallmark of the U.S. South that has since spread to infect the rest of the nation.
And I say all this as someone originally from the South. Through trying to force people’s hand, more trouble was caused for everybody in the long run. Go figure. But that’s the way life tends to go. Problems usually are best solved locally, not from some top-down dictates coming from officials living far away (like in New York or D.C.) who are directly unfamiliar with the culture and peoples in question. But history has already been decided, so there’s not much point in pondering what might’ve been, I guess. Too late now.
Been thinking a lot on racial issues again lately, obviously. Seems to increasingly be a hot button topic, especially within universities (myself also having been a Social Sciences major). I do contest the popular narrative being floated around these days. But I don’t write any of this in malice or intending disrespect. Just pondering is all. Wondering where this story may lead from here on out. Lots of blame being tossed around. Lots of talk of inherent “privilege.” Judging people by skin tone instead of as individuals in their own right. That is unsettling to watch ramp up.
We can’t change the past. None of us can.
Was thinking the other day about how few Southerners owned plantations or slaves. People like to say all of society benefited from slavery, but they forget about the poor laborers who were forced to contend with slave labor in order to survive. Plus the immigrants who moved here after slavery was abolished, as already mentioned above. Yet we’re all just lumped together under the same heading and categorically dismissed (unless one happens to be Hispanic, then a separate category is permitted for their Caucasians). Ralph Nader, to take one example, is actually a Lebanese-American. I am a Southern-born half-Arab. Most people I know up here in this part of the Midwest are of German descent. Or that plus Swedish descent. Yet we’re all chastised equally. Basically, we’re White so we suck. Inherently. Automatically. According to some people, that is.
Just been thinking is all. Now off to do something else.