Watch Out for the Smoke and Mirrors
The belief systems that many of us have come to accept are being challenged and in some cases shattered by research that is often no longer limited by those that have sought to maintain a racialized and sanitized version of political history. Recent and ongoing research has brought to light a different story about such important topics as the development of political structures in a country dominated by racial and class inequalities. Texas, like the rest of the nation has succored its history by inventing myths that maintain the ideas of those that have conquered others. The nation from its inception was born of political birth defects that have gained acceptance in mass thought by constant repetition of invented lies and by erasing all other versions that do not comply with the accepted norms of those in power.
We must reach beyond misleading “facts” that have been passed on from generation to generation and from birth to death, ideas that are at odds with the historical record. One can argue that my rendition of what happened in the past and how it shapes our future is but just another opinion. However, there are well-researched opinions based on reading tons of materials and poorly reasoned opinions. Though I make no claims to universal truth, I understand the mechanisms of diluting and ignoring certain aspects of history in order to develop racial myth.
If, for example, if one were to try and convince the general public that the Civil War was not about slavery it is simple enough to ignore the economic wealth of the plantation system, and the use of slaves in the production of cotton and what that economic loss would mean to a slave owning class that had entrenched itself in the mode of production in the South. Simply put, the slave owners had much to lose if slavery were abolished. If you ignore this fact, you are either ignorant of the complexities of the economics of slavery, or a blind follower of the false southern history that has taken hold in the minds of millions.
What better way to disguise the issue of slavery as central to the Civil War, and the 1776 Revolution, than to claim that the North was trying to sabotage the South of their “beloved rights.” The “beloved rights” that were explained during that time and afterwards were couched in the political smoke of a cliché termed “States Rights.” The historical record illustrates that these “states rights” were molded around the idea of maintaining the institution of slavery, but yet camouflaged behind the idea that the individual states had rights that the federal government had given to them during compromises. To this day, some historians try to maintain that slavery had little to do with the Civil War and the American Revolution, and that these great conflicts were simply struggles for “freedom.” It was more than a war between the blue and the grey or between freedom and England’s rule!
Why would any historian ignore major issues in any political and historical event? Ignorance and sloppy research is one answer, but does that explain the wholesale propagation of ideas that are clearly at odds with the details? What central idea governed the thought processes of those that held slaves? In order to dehumanize a population it is a well established fact that those that perpetuate violence against a subjected population must reduce that population to a sub-human one. In order to do that, a central all encompassing thought must pervade society so that those in power feel that they have God given authority to exercise control over others.
In the case of Texas, and indeed the entire country, white supremacy was the glue that snookered lighter skinned people together. This racialized glue, which was often recognized as barbaric by individual oppressors themselves, nevertheless, was the binding force that produced the points of explanation as to why an event had occurred. Universities and colleges are not immune to these acts of miseducation. In fact, two year colleges are often more prone to teaching sanitized versions of social and political history. One example that has a long life, and stands as the epitome of ignorance, is knowing about the origins of racism. Racism is not ancient, but a relatively new formula for oppressing people. The term “race” had no real meaning in the ancient world, but only with the rise of African slavery did it come to mean skin color. Those people that still think they are “white” need only look at what “whites” were before they were driven into this category—they were Irish, French, German, and others but not ‘white.” Race and whiteness was invented to put all Europeans into a racial box for the purpose of furthering the aims of white supremacy.