White Nationalists are Wrong About the Civil War

When the chaos in Charlottesville happened a few weeks ago, like many around America, I was pissed off. Sure, I am a white male, so I’m not going to be as pissed off as someone who gets unfortunately lumped into one of the unfortunate categories that we seem to call “other.” But the idea that these feelings, this hatred, is still going on is insane to me, and I would imagine, many white people across the country.

Many around the country and the world blame Trump for this sudden uptick of activity. Sure, maybe his blustering idiocy has somehow provided a public face to the madness, but there’s no way that a disgraced lame duck president like Trump can legitimize anything that wasn’t already there. Trump is too often a convenient scapegoat that’s somehow to blame for a lot of awful and terrible things that people have been doing for decades.

Because this shit has been going on for decades. Centuries even. Minorities have to deal with people who seem to hate them for no good reason and may just shoot them in the streets because you’re a bit too tanned.  It’s not like slavery ever ended, it just became systemic and legitimized through our prison systems, redistricting, and our justice system.

The True Civil War Story

And all this is because southern whites cling to the wrong elements of the losing side of the Civil War. Yes, slavery was a big deal to the Confederacy, but because it was a vital piece of their economic system. Yes, the south wanted to expand slavery across western states, but for the same reason that Starbucks expanded from Seattle and crept across the United States.

Slavery was an economic model, and the Southern states wanted to make more money. Simple as that.

The Civil War was not fought over slavery.

The Civil War was a fight over states rights vs. federal control. At this time, the power and the agenda of the federal government was primarily controlled by the North.  Tensions brewed as the North continuously passed legislation that the South disagreed with. And as time passed, the Southern states felt that they were losing their representation in this new and bold government.

Once Abraham Lincoln was elected, despite not receiving a single Southern electoral vote, the Southern states realized that they had lost all federal influence, and the Confederacy was born.

Lincoln Was Not An Abolitionist

Many think the Emancipation Proclamation was some big sweeping legislation that banned slavery. Nope. Sure, on multiple occasions he proclaimed that he had moral issues with slavery, but he was also conflicted about what to do about it. Slaves were not just an economic valuable in the South, but slaves also existed in the North as well. And destroying the foundation for a young country’s economic system seemed like a tough pill to swallow.

When he was running for U.S. Senate in 1858, Lincoln proclaimed that “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”  He seemed to be inspired by prominent free black figures such as Frederick Douglass, because he felt that slaves could work to buy their freedom and work against the incredible odds and find success on their own. When the Emancipation Proclamation was declared, Lincoln actually owned slaves that worked in the White House.

And speaking of which, the Emancipation Proclamation (E.P) did not abolish slavery. During the second summer of the Civil War, the Union found that they had somehow inherited thousands of black slaves who had fled the Southern states during the war. The Union didn’t have a clear policy for how to deal with these refugees, so Lincoln came up with the E.P as a way to further undermine the Confederacy and to put these slaves back to work, as cannon fodder.

Specifically, the E.P. abolished slavery in the South, a region that the Union technically had no jurisdiction over. What the E.P. did not do, is abolish slavery in the North. As a result of this policy, if slaves crossed from the South to the North, they were suddenly free, and would be turned back around with a Union uniform and a musket.  But if you were a slave a Union-loyal slave state, such as Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, you remained a slave.

Eventually, we got around to passing the 13th amendment. But it took a long time after the Civil War, and Lincoln was initially very critical of the idea. He believed that slavery should be abolished over time, not in one fell swoop. Regardless, slavery was used as a straw man in the Civil War, an argument to appeal to keep abolitionists fighting for the Union, to keep Britain and France from joining the Confederacy, and as a simple way to undermine the South.

The True Confederate Legacy

And yet here we are today, and the South is still towing the Northern propaganda that the Civil War was about slavery. The Civil War was about solidifying the encroaching power of the federal government over state rights. In the end, the Union won, and the federal government secured it’s powerful against the states. For now.

But in reality, federal vs. state power is an argument that still continues to this day and has been around since the founding of the Constituion.  If there is any that this country was founded on, it is that there should always be a tug of war between federal and state governments. Both systems should always be fighting for power over the other to prevent one side from having too much power.

Once the Civil War ended, the South looked to things like the E.P. and this straw man slavery argument as the real reason they lost. Southern whites blamed black people for their own failings. As a result, Southern whites lost the most important part of their moment of rebellion. They lost their identity of being true state-centric patriots and became simple racist bigots who looked to “the other” as the easy source of blame, so they didn’t have to face their own failure.

The Confederate Legacy should be to continue the fight against the federal government. To push up their own political power. Not to keep dragging this straw man on their backs. Southern whites were once a proud people who fought for political power, not to try to fight some boogy man.

Slavery as an economic model doesn’t make sense anymore, especially with machines and automation.  Slavery as a cultural model was never a hallmark of the South, so that needs to be dropped too. White Nationalists are stuck on blaming black people for all their problems and it’s pathetic. Let it go.

Rebuilding White Culture

I believe that the biggest crisis facing Southern whites is the destruction of their culture. Generally, white people do not have a culture of their own, at least in the United States. The only cultures we have today are based on interests, such as Geek culture, Sports culture, Car culture, Religious culture, etc.  But while African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Arabs, etc. all have very distinct cultures that they can be proud of and unite behind, white people have no such national identity.

I do believe that White Nationalists see the celebration of minority cultures and are trying to cling some sense of their own. In a cruel twist of fate, the sons and daughters of the Confederacy are now using the Union propaganda that was used to discredit them and clinging onto racism, misogyny, and bigotry.

If Southern whites want to cling to something, they should cling to the true Confederate legacy. Cling to a culture of rebellion and conviction. Cling to a culture defined by the pride in one’s own state and their state’s political power and process. Cling to a culture defined by defying the all-encompassing power of the federal government. And maybe, just maybe, you can call to your black, Latino, Asian, and Arab friends to perpetuate the cause, rather than bringing them down because they are an easy target.

I’m Talking to White People

I fully believe that minorities have the right to defend themselves, and there’s no way I, as a white man, can claim to dictate what the oppressed can do about their situation. That’s how we got in this mess in the first place.

But, this culture war isn’t going to be solved by the very people who are being oppressed. All the Anti-Fa movements, protests, riots, etc. in the world would never stop what’s happening here. Neither would a Ghandi-style peaceful sit in or anything like that. Because as moving and monumental as all those things can be, this is a different kind of movement.

This is a movement to reclaim Southern white culture. But if you’re trying to reclaim your culture, you should try claiming the right one.


Mike Lohnash