The Will to Secede

     (Readers of this post will be interested in the story of Curtis Flowers, a native of Winona, Mississippi who will soon go on trial for the sixth time on the same murder charges.)

According to a Rasmussen poll, only 18% of Texans would vote to secede from the United States of America if the vote were taken today.  

An additional 7% would like time to mull it over.

In short, one quarter of the Texas voting population is willing to follow Governor Rick Perry into a new Texas Republic.

My guess is that the overwhelming majority of the secessionist folks are Republicans.  Since the solid Republican base has been estimated at about 39% of the electorate it could be argued that Perry’s party is evenly split on the issue.

Maybe the Governor is just talking like a proud Texan.  Everybody knows that native Texans feel more tied to their state than to their country.  But successionist talk has been a common staple of the Southern neo-Confederate movement since the days of Brown vs. Board.  Successionist rhetoric has traditionally been the province of those who long for the restoration of the Confederacy. 

I just finished reading Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction: a fascinating study of the most sophisticated strain of Southern racism written by a group of authors, many of them at least loosley affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Edward Sebesta, a Dallas-based researcher who is probably the national authority on the issue, was part of the editorial team.  I had never heard of either Sebesta or neo-Confederates until he contacted me a few weeks ago.

You can find Ed Sebesta’s blog here and his extensive essay on the prevelance of neo-Confederate mythology here.  It’s pretty dense stuff, but the Dallas writer breaks some important new ground and deserves a hearing.

Sebesta has coined the term “banal white nationalism” to describe the unexamined assumption, especially common in the South, that America is a white nation, created by white folks primarily for white folks. 

Banal white nationalism is contrasted to the kind of explicit white nationalism you will get from hardcore neo-conferate groups like the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

There is nothing faintly banal about these organizations.  They are committed to the values of the Old South, they feel utter contempt for the civil rights movement, they associate northerners with godless socialism and the Southland with orthodox Christianity, and they are committed to the principle of white supremacy.   If neo-Confederates had their way in this wicked world they would re-establish the Confederacy in a heartbeat.  Non-caucasians wouldbe allowed to live in this new-old realm so long as they understood that white is the color of normal.

Failing that, neo-Confederates will settle for “states rights”.

Banal white nationalism is a largely unexamined and unacknowledged creed rooted in the assumption that white people are normal Americans. 

White nationalism is shaped by the kind of Confederate mythology usually associated with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and D.W. Griffith’s the Birth of a Nation: a highly sentimental and idealized vision of a pristine Southland despoiled by the Yankee invader.  In the popular mind, this mythos is wedded to public school mythology about Plymouth Rock Puritans, the heroes of the Revolutionary War, and the glories of Manifest Destiny.

When all of the heroes you read about in the history books are white you naturally assume that America is essentially a white nation.  You will continue to think this way even if you are told repeatedly that you live in a pluralistic nation united by a common adherence to the American Constitution.

Stories trump abstractions every time.

I see three varieties of white nationalism. 

First, there are crude racists of the KKK variety; the folks that attract attention by dressing funny and mouthing slogans that are no longer palatable in the public square.  These are the people Americans love to hate.  In fact, they are the only species of racist most people acknowledge.

Then you have the explicit white nationalists who are dedicated to the principle of white supremacy and dream dreams of a new Southern Confederacy.  Explicit white nationalists denounce the civil rights movement as a federal conspiracy, lament the profligacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and perpetuate every minority stereotype in the book.  However, since they are well educated, write and speak standard English and don’t dress up in funny clothes most white Americans see them as normal Americans no matter how undemocratic and intemperate their rhetoric becomes.    

Finally, we have Sebesta’s banal white nationalists, everyday Americans who see white as the color of normal.  Although these people tend to be non-ideological, they have imbibed the public school historical mythology and embraced its implications.  The television teaches them to honor civil rights icons like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and they willingly comply.  Banal white nationalists see American as a white nation that is friendly to racial minorities.

A solid majority of white Americans fall into one of these three categories.  Banal white nationalism is dominant in the Northern states.  In the Deep South it’s okay to embrace explicit white nationalism so long as you choose your nouns and adjectives with care.

Suppose I am right; what impact would the prevelance of white nationalism have on the behavior of police officers and how would it impact the legal system?

Black defendants would be at a huge disadvantage with white prosecutors, judges and juries.   At best, they are seen as resident aliens with only provisional rights. 

If the tenets of white nationalism are fundamentally patriarchal, anti-egalitarian (and therefore undemocratic) what is the practical import of the due process protections hallowed by the US Constitution.  As a practical matter, do these lofty principle really apply to black and brown people?

Now, where does Governor Rick Perry fall on the ideological continuum I have just described?  Does he see America as a gloriously pluralistic mix of color, culture and ethnicity, or is he some species of white nationalist.

In the tradition of the Southern governers who have gone before, Perry is speaking the language of state’s rights.  That doesn’t necessarily make him a racist or a white supremacist.  There is nothing inherently racist about seeking a balance between federal and state power.  But we all know what Southern governers meant by state’s rights in 1860 and 1957, and concerns should be raised when politicians toss around this kind of rhetoric.

When they’re talking secession it just gets worse.

Two points.  First, Governor Rick Perry is a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Second, the SCV has been moving in a radical, neo-confederate direction since 2002 and is now run by blatant racists.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Perry can be identified with the SCV’s recent extremism.  In the 1990s, the group had a strong anti-racist faction and received commendations from Bill Clinton.  Maybe Governor Perry would be shocked if he knew what was going on.  

But until the Governor’s allegiance to an increasingly racist organization is clarified friends of justice will be left with an uneasy feeling.

5 thoughts on “The Will to Secede

  1. Alan, I read your blog regularly. I confess to doing this with a pervasive sense of helplessness. I believe the insights you convey are absolutely vital to our continuation as a whole nation. But the more I learn of the extent of the problems, the more daunting they appear. In my lifetime I have seen what I have regarded as progress but just as soon as I become comforted by those successes a new facet is uncovered which, in some cases, almost negates the gains. I realize the process is bound to be gradual but often it is monolithically so. I wanted to acknowledge this present article and my negligence in communicating my gratitude for your writings. I have long lamented the purveying of the historical myths by means of tradition and the watered-down public school history and civics education that the public in general has settled for. This has been cultivated as well by a systemic structure having a stake in seeing that the commoners are kept in ignorance. It is a hope of mine that the discord that irritates the thinking youthful mind as they assimilate these un-facts and the access to information we have, unprecedented in all time, will accelerate the process of nullifying these popular mythologies and traditions that keep us from becoming what we can and should be as a nation. Keep up the fine work and know that it is appreciated.

  2. Governor Perry is not a member of the SCV. You have already discredited yourself.
    The SCV is not a Racist organization. But is against the popular culture which is full of revisionist historical views. The attacks on the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Historical truth of things; does create some heated feeling, but then who doesn’t get mad when they are constantly being attacked as being less than they truely are?
    Civil rights? I’m for them. First let me state that I’m color blind. I judge men / women by their actions, morals, and ethics. I don’t like the Federal Government trying to force what historically has happend peacefully throughout the world over time. I’m mechanical in thinking, and know better than to force pieces in a puzzle, but there are many who think that you just need a bigger hammer. We did not need to kill off the best of our citizens in a war for Lincoln’s and the social aristocracies pride.
    The Old South was not about slavery, and the North not the redeamer. To say that tells me that you are ignorant of history, and Lincoln himself disproves your line of thought. You discredit yourself again. Check out the pre-sessesion 13th amendment offered by Lincoln which the South rejected. OR how about the letters to Horace Greeley concerning Lincoln’s views on the war. These are the things which get omited from our schools, and we end up fighting about. How about the war was about one group thinking we are getting cheated, and are leaving. and the otherside feeling that things are not so borken that it can’t be fixed. And the Hot heads on both sides drug us into war. But then who invaded who? Who declared total war on the civillian population of the invaded territories? Where was your history book written? By the decendants of who? and you wonder why we of Southern birth are mad. Look at the values being forced on us as acceptable, and what it does to our faith relations, and how our kids are getting brainwashed with the gargbage, and told to accept it. Even against or behind the parents backs. You wonder why we are wanting out?
    A word on slavery. Every race of man has at some time been in bondage, even to its own race. But yet there are many who think America the great evil because it was here too. I don’t feel guilty that it happened. I am ashamed that when we wrote our Constitiontion, Declaration of Independance; that we did not end it then, but then I did not live at that time, and will not try to judge the past by the present standards. That is a fallacy may popular culture embracing, politicaly correct revisionists use in their writings.
    On White Nationalisim, You better watch out; because when last I looked you had more skinheads, and Klan up North, and in Territories traditionally UNION. And Homos, and murderous pro-choice and Drugs, and domestic violence, and broken marriages. You know: MISERY LOVES COMPANY, and maybe you like to tear us down so that you don’t have to go to Hell by yourself.
    Did you go to school at all? Did you grow up with traditions, and values? What would you do if a distant body decided to attack you and yours with things which undermine those values? Lay down and take it? Not me, Not ever!
    Obviously the writer needs to go back to school for investigative reporting. Because the truth is out there, and its public, and requires only a little work. But then again when you are poisoned with preconceptions the modern reporter prints what feels good to their personal sentiments. The title for this is comentator. And the ones who put out this poorly written garbage are idealogues, and dis-honest. I suggest that there is a payment being made for printing controversy.
    I would feel shame if my name were on this partial fiction. But then again liberal pin heads don’t have any shame. They continue to try to infiltrate Consevative venues, and distort facts.

    I’m a Proud Texan, and SCV Member, Pro 1st and 2nd amendment, Christian, and pro-lifer! Dedicated to the principles which this Country was founded on. And against those who would steer us away from such Judea / Christian founding.
    There is only 1 America, and right now; Texas is the closest thing to what it was intended to be. So YES Texas first!

    God Bless America! and all (color blind remember) men, and women of character, and integrity who contribute to her greatness.

    Good night,


Comments are closed.