So after fighting for the right to fly his Confederate flag in his dorm room window, and winning, University of South Carolina student Byron Thomas has now decided that he won’t exercise that right. My guess is that someone sent Byron a long list of links to historical records and narratives that contradict his southern indoctrination.
It is telling that Southern revisionists continue to promote the fiction that the main cause of the Civil War was something other than slavery. It is just as telling that some black people readily buy into it.
It’s almost as if some black people feel as though those who fought under the Confederate flag, and those who still support the cause, couldn’t have possibly gotten it all that wrong. There must be some alternate explanation. The thing is, there isn’t an alternate explanation and the idea that there is one is just a boldface lie.
Consider that in Mississippi’s secession declaration, it boldly asserted that “our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.” Hear that Byron? Mississippi viewed slavery not as a regrettable institution or an afterthought, but the greatest institution in the world, one that it was willing to shed blood to protect.
But in addition to the obvious financial benefit of free slave labor, we should also consider the societal implications at play in the ratchet up to the Civil War. The revisionist account fails to acknowledge the truth; that the antebellum South was not simply a place with economic roots in slavery, but a slave society. This was about white supremacy as much as anything, and good ‘ol Byron would’ve been shot on sight had he come across a group of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
Had the Confederacy had its way, Byron would’ve been in the field picking cotton instead of at the University of South Carolina getting an education because, in the South’s estimation, savages couldn’t read, or at least they shouldn’t.
A lot of Yankee blood was spilled so that Byron could have the opportunity that he has today and that’s where his allegiance should reside.
In 1858, Lincoln said, “this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South.”
The question that had to be settled was not just whether folks like Byron and I would remain chattel, but for how long the institution itself would endure. Since that time, our government has continued to grapple with the Negro question.
But I don’t want to come down too hard on Byron because he’s just a young and impressionable college student. University is, of course, a place where students grow and expand their knowledge of the world and purge themselves of stubborn mythologies. Any time now Byron. We’re all rooting for you.