What if the Confederate States of America won the War against Northern Aggression
? That's the premise behind the Spike Lee produced film by Kevin Willmott, The CSA
. In this mocumentary, supposedly produced by a British broadcasting team, and aired, amid controversy on CSA network television now, the film provides an alternate history of North America. The outcomes, except that slavery remained legal, were that this nation's history might not have seemed all so different from the racial divisions and social problems this nation currently faces.
Filmmaker Willmott says of this production:
In many ways, the South did win The Civil War. Maybe not on the battlefield, but they won the peace. They won the fight for their way of life. The North changed, not the South. One of the best examples is the city in which I live, Lawrence, Kansas, famously founded by abolitionists. Following the North's "victory," the city was segregated. Kansas University, where I am an Assistant Professor, was segregated. The Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools in the United States was in Kansas, not Mississippi. Maybe the history of the "C.S.A." would not be all that different from the one we have known - some differences, perhaps, but not a complete counter history.
As with all parodies, among the humor some uncomfortable truths come to light. The near-real commercials from the Slave Shopping Network
featuring live screen call-in bidding wars for whole pickninny families, or [if the viewers prefer] breaking up the group for the convenience of the new owner. More sobering are the excerpts where Abe Lincoln is captured and arrested by President Jefferson Davis, a timeline of international slavery initatives and the federal government signing a non-aggression treaty with Hitler [which "...allowed for Jews to reside in Reservations on Long Island
Now, even though the Oscars awarded the top honor this year to Crash
, dealing with racism is still in its infancy. We have, after all, a society run by angry, powerful white folks who cling to that power with jealousy, irrationality, self-righteousness and zealotry about their "right" to remain there. The CSA
is a film that adds to the discussion in ways that Crash might not. Regrettably, with Crash
now long removed from the movie screens, and The CSA
only getting limited screen play. it doesn't give me much optimism that the discourse so needed shall be adequately pursued.
There are two other bits of inspirational source materials I'd like to make note of on this topic; one being Yale history professor
Harry S. Stout and his new book "Upon the Altar of a Nation: A Moral History of The Civil War
." In the book, Professor Stout makes a timely reconsideration of "just war," and examines the moral underpinnings of the 1860s War Between the States. Both groups’ claimed that they had God on their side, which fueled the ferocity of the conflict and its provided a legacy that endures today. Commentary from the website Real Clear Politics
says of the book's concerns that "...The religious language of the war, in particular, was nearly always the language of the jeremiad, in which God guarantees victory to the righteous and ruin to their enemies, and battlefield success is linked to piety and failure to apostasy...
." The central paradox being that "...the more moral a war seems to be at the outset, the greater the moral compromise it may eventually require
While it is the 1860s Civil War that Stout scrutinizes in his book, it is racism, and our nation's failure to address its consequences, that seems to me the larger war we must deal with; whether this be the Black:White faux dichotomy constantly bubbling under the surface in the United States or the false construct of "fundamentalist Islam versus Fundamentalist millenialist Christianism" that we and the rest of the planet witnesses daily in the so-called war on terror so glibly touted by the Bushco Regime.
Finally, I want to draw attention to a valuable yet under-noticed newsletter, Race, Racism and the Law
, edited and published Dr. Vernellia R. Randall, Professor of Law at the University of Dayton, Datyon Ohio. Her newsletter tackles tough questions, many of which don't have clear answers [like dealing with White Privilege
] and others [such as reparations for post civil-war racially motivated assaults like the May 31, 1921 massacre in Tulsa Oklahoma
] which one finds not the slightest recognition of, much less acknowledgment or discussion.
For those not in the know, the Tulsa Massacre
was when up to three hundred African-Americans were killed, thousands were left homeless, and the predominantly Black Greenwood community was burnt to the ground by a white mob, deputized by the city fathers of Tulsa and aided by the State of Oklahoma. Even now, more than 80 years later, the courts and this nation's leadership evade taking responsibility to this sanctioned act of genocide.
But I digress. My point here is quite simply, unless and until we start learning the seamier sides of our history, making them our own, and finding ways to acheive some measure of social justice, then our ability to find solutions for current day problems based on ignorance and racial prejudice shall continute to be compromised. We can no longer afford the dubious luxury of remaining ignorant. Ignorance, after all, is not bliss. It is the stumbling block that holds us back from truly progressing toward equity and justice.