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Lost Cause

Each week, LA Progressive’s editors pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader’s thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week’s pithy "Feedback Friday" response comes from Tom Hall, who commented on the article by Steve Hochstadt, "Lost Cause: The Persistence of Bad History.

It’s way too easy to blame the continuing problem on “politics.” And it’s really sad to focus on decades past, rather than on some of the progress that we have made and are making. It sort of sounds like the Donald’s supporters constantly blaming all problems on President Obama or on Hillary Clinton, both of whom have been out of office for a while.

As much as politics, our national race problem continues to be driven by economics and by social beliefs and conventions. Similar factors drive our continuing national problems with gender issues.

As much as politics, our national race problem continues to be driven by economics and by social beliefs and conventions. Similar factors drive our continuing national problems with gender issues.

Looking on a brighter side, just as the printing press made the actual language of the bible available to many people, and undermined the “authority” of the Catholic Church, the advent of TV news, and more recently social media and phones with hi res cameras, is constantly undermining the “authority” and “received wisdom” that props up the pro-business mythology of the Lost Cause.

Just as news film brought the Vietnam War into America’s living rooms, along with literate, informed critiques of that war, the internet now erases the barriers to any school student looking at images of the secession authorizations of the Confederate states, completely demolishing the “states’ rights” myth.

Cell phone videos of the Charlottesville murder gave the lie to James Field’s claims of self defense in his murder of Heather Heyer, just as similar videos have given the lie to false police claims after killing black men, women and children.

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Perhaps as important, other cell phone videos have shown white people verbally, or physically assaulting black families trying to barbecue in public parks, restaurant workers assaulting black customers, and people trying to bar black residents from their own apartments or dorm rooms. Essentially, these videos provide public notice that formerly private acts of racism can no longer be kept hidden. No more “night riding” for a thrill or to keep the neighborhood white.

By giving publicity to racism we weaken it. The “Lost Cause” arguments are designed to mislead, to conceal the real race problem underlying the Civil War. The arguments over Civil War monuments are framed in attempts to deny the history of when and why such monuments were erected. But modern research tools let every student find the real histories of these monuments to racism and racial oppression decades after the Civil War.

Yes, the Lost Cause arguments are built on lies. But increasingly those lies are revealed and condemned. We have certainly not solved our race problem. YES, it IS important to know about the Thurmond candidacy of 1948, and the Little Rock and Selma episodes. It is important to learn that December 1, 1955 was the day that Rosa Park refused to stand up for a white man on a bus.

But it is equally important to know that the resulting Montgomery bus boycott was a SUCCESS. And that we did get a civil rights legislation in the 50s and 60s. And that in 2018, it was largely due to minority voters (not just black voters) turning out, that so many white power structure office holders were turned out of office.

It is important to know that Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first person killed in the American Revolution, when British “redcoats” fired on a crowd, causing the Boston Massacre, in 1770. And it is equally important to know that his death, and the deaths of so many more in the following centuries were not in vain. They led to this year, when Mr. Hochstadt’s examples of terrible behaviors are all decades old.

We have made progress. We ARE making progress. Not fast enough. But far more and far faster than many people and businesses would like.

Perhaps the best news is that people wanting the old ways are mostly old and leaving the stage, and that in the newer generations, the organizers of things like the Charlottesville murder, are much fewer, and much less able to hide and to lie when caught.