This week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared April “Confederate History Month” in the state (as if every month’s not “confederate history month” according to a number of local pick-up truck bumper stickers and license plate holders). In his speech, he spoke passionately about how the battles of the Civil War were a “defining chapter” for Virginians and how important is it to remember the lives lost. But McDonnell and his speechwriter made one eensy, weensy little omission … that the reason there was a Civil War and a Confederacy was that the South chose to succeed from the Union to support an agrarian economy based on the enslavement of an entire race of people. Details, details.
I don’t know about the Virginia school system, but I had to know that slavery was a pretty damn important part of the Civil War in order to pass the 4th grade. And I went to school in Georgia, where you could buy a Confederate flag ice cream cake at the local Baskin Robbins (not kidding). That’s not the sort of minor detail that one accidentally leaves out of a speech. That’s the kind of major component that one glosses over in a speech on purpose. But why?
Well, McDonnell told the Washington Post a couple days ago that slavery wasn’t a “significant” enough issue to make it into a speech about the Civil War. Ummm … I beg to differ Mr. McDonnell. Slavery was a pretty damn significant issue for the millions of Africans who were kidnapped from their homes, forced to endure a brutal, often deadly, journey across the ocean, and then bought and sold like objects to white men in America. It was significant to the families who were torn apart, the women who were raped, and the men who were tortured for trying to escape. And it’s significant to the millions of African Americans who today still suffer from the legacy of slavery and the racism that has followed it. I’m sorry, but there isn’t a reputable historian in the country who would tell you slavery wasn’t a “significant” part of the Civil War and the creation of the Confederacy.
Obviously, the Virginia public school system (McDonnell went to school in Fairfax County) has failed their governor miserably, since he isn’t aware that slavery was an important enough part of the Confederate story to deserve a mention. That must be the case, because the only other reasonable explanation is that he intentionally left out any mention of slavery as a slap in the face to African American Virginians, to indicate to them that their history isn’t “significant”. But a move like that would indicate a hearty dose of racism on Mr. McDonnell’s part. And we all know the GOP is not the party of racism … they have Colin Powell and Michael Steele.
I’m confident a full investigation will be launched into how McDonnell managed to fail to learn a basic 4th grade U.S. history lesson and still be elected governor of the great state of Virginia.
Photo credit: akasped