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The ugly events that have just taken place in Charlottesville, VA are a stark reminder that the cancer of white supremacy continues to fester in America -- and not just at the level of a few hundred knuckle dragging racists marching with Confederate flags.
On the contrary, white supremacy is rooted in the very foundations of America, and remains wedded into the very fabric of its society and culture.
Let us not mince words. If ever a cause was unworthy, that cause was the US Confederacy. If ever a cause was righteously defeated in battle, it was the cause of the US Confederacy. And if ever a flag was -- and is -- an insult to human decency and dignity, it is the Confederate flag.
The mere fact this is still being debated in the United States, the fact there are those who continue to accord a nobility, valor, and romanticism to the Confederacy -- regarded wistfully as the "Lost Cause" to its adherents -- this is evidence of the deep polarization that divides a society yet to fully come to terms with its legacy of slavery, racial oppression, and brutality.
Four million human beings -- men, women, and children -- were owned as chattel by the start of the US Civil War in 1861. They were bought and sold, raped, beaten, tortured and murdered upon the whim of their owners, whose barbarity has its modern equivalence in the barbarity of the followers and members of the so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh).
When white racist fanatic, Dylann Roof, slaughtered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2015, he unwittingly exposed the truth that the US Civil War remains the defining event in the nation's history, which still today informs a cultural divide between North and South.
The reason for this lies not so much in the legitimacy of the Confederate/southern cause -- indeed how could a cause defined by the right to keep human beings as slaves ever be considered legitimate -- but in the weakness of progressive forces in succumbing to the mythology that has been ascribed to the Confederacy and to those who fought and died for it. Indeed, if ever a society was crying out for the aggressive assertion of human rights, racial equality, and justice, it is the United States.
Racial oppression, whether delivered from the gun of a mass murderer in a South Carolinian church, or the gun of a police officer, has yet to be expunged in the land of the free, even though 150 years have passed since the Confederacy was defeated in battle.
There are historical reasons why this is so, but one in particular: namely the decision of the 18th US President, Rutherford B. Hayes, to end Reconstruction as a condition of his entry into the White House with the support of southern Democrats, a tawdry political deal known to history as the Compromise of 1877. It marked the end of a decade in which so-called Radical Republicans (referred to pejoratively as Black Republicans), in control of the US Congress, had driven forward a federal program to promote and uphold the rights of former slaves throughout the South, according them the full civil and political rights that their status as free men and women demanded.
This was absolutely necessary immediately upon war's end, when local politicians assumed control of state legislatures across the South and enacted "black codes" with the objective of keeping newly freed black slaves in as close to a state of their former bondage as was possible, refusing to grant them their civil rights or the vote.
The reaction of the North was to divide the former Confederate states into military districts and occupy them with federal troops to ensure the protection of blacks from white racists and to enforce their civil rights. This was accompanied by the demand that those former Confederate states support the passage of the three post-civil war amendments to the US Constitution -- the 13th, 14th, and 15th -- outlawing slavery and granting rights of citizenship and the vote to every person born in the United States regardless of race or color in every state.
The end of Reconstruction in 1877, and the withdrawal of federal troops from states such as South Carolina, resulted in the plight of blacks in said states suffering a sharp reverse. The Klu Klux Klan's influence and power as America's first terrorist organization instantly made its presence felt, measured in the rise and entrenchment of white supremacy as a state, and the culture of segregation returned across the South. Blacks were lynched, murdered, and tortured with impunity from then on, and their status as second-class citizens entrenched.