[I didn’t see Noble Experiment’s piece on this yesterday before I wrote this, but I think it deserves another anyway.]
An op-ed in today’s NY Times opens with this:
I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.
If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument.
The op-ed by Caroline Randall Williams, is titled You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument, and is the most powerful expression I have read of the obscenity of continuing tributes to the treasonous southern regime. The nature of the South as a rape regime should have been obvious for more tha150 years, but the cleansing of the Confederacy successfully swept this under the rug and replaced it with the rancid romanticism of Gone with the Wind, statues of Lee, Forrest et al., and Antique Road Show memorabilia.
Williams’ article is filled with revelatory paragraphs like this:
You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate.I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.
Imagine witnessing Bloody Sunday at the time, watching video clips of it later or seeing it depicted in Selma, and seeing the bridge still named after a despicable racist traitor and rapist. Imagine if he is your direct ancestor. Imagine perhaps millions of women being raped at will regularly over 250 years. Certainly the textbooks I learned with and others I later taught with did not dare touch the reality and legacy of slave rape — as important a part of slavery’s heritage as its economy or its “tradition.”
A Times commenter writes:
I wonder how the "Daughters of the Confederacy" might react to this? I'm serious about that. Their website emphasizes charitable works and denounces racism. But how might they greet this daughter of the confederacy, and her point of view?
The Sally Hemings descendants of the Jefferson family who were not welcome to the family’s reunions perhaps can answer this question. But Williams extends this to a much larger universe of “sons and daughters” of the Confederacy. She says “I am proof” that above everything the South’s “prosperity and romance and nostalgia were built on the greivous exploitation of black life,” and “the monuments of stone and metal, the monuments of cloth and wood, all the man-made monuments, must come down.”
My Body Is a Confederate Monument is a ground-breaking work, meriting inclusion in any American History or Social Science text, or any collection of essays on slavery and its legacy.