The Cruel Patriarchy of White Supremacy

It’s America, 2017, and white supremacy is all the rage once again. But it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. When a certain boorish Manhattan tycoon announced his run for the presidency back in June 2015 on a platform of pure white resentment, the internet’s copious population of pasty, man-child nematodes crawled out of their literal and digital basements to voice their support for a candidate who vowed to give a voice to America’s most oppressed group: white males.

From the dankest bowels of the internet, on sites such as 4chan, Occidental Dissent, and the Daily Stormer, white supremacists celebrated Donald Trump’s unlikely presidential victory. Now, well into the first year of his presidency, they continue to stand behind their orange führer. This support was on full display on August 11 in Charlottesville, Virginia, when various gobs of reactionary slime — including neo-Nazis, the Alt-Right, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederates, and gun-toting militia members — oozed together for a “Unite the Right” rally. While these various groups ostensibly gathered to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, this event was actually a “coming out” party for a resurgent form of white-identity politics in America emboldened by Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency.

Plenty of historians have already written about the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces throughout the United States. But I’m going to emphasize another key element that fuels the white nationalist agenda: patriarchal gender oppression. Underlying all of the “pro-white” bluster and neo-Confederate ideology of the new crop of white supremacists is a deep contempt for female empowerment. The trifecta of patriarchy, misogyny, and gendered paternalism has been central to American whiteness for hundreds of years. Gender oppression is baked into the crust of white supremacy.

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Dylann Roof and the Twilight of The Confederate Flag

The Confederate flag may finally be lowered from South Carolina's capital after decades of well-deserved controversy.

The Confederate flag may finally be lowered from South Carolina’s capital after decades of controversy.

A century-and-a-half after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, the Confederacy may finally be laying down its cultural arms. Following the horrific shooting rampage by white neo-Confederate psychopath Dylann Roof that left nine African-Americans dead in Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the long-enduring Confederate flag ‘s days of flying above the South Carolina capital — the heart of the Old Confederacy — may be numbered.

As the families of Roof’s victims still mourn their terrible loss, they may be able to take solace in the fact that the cold-blooded murder of their loved ones seems to have spurred a national awakening that centuries of spilled African-American blood could not quite inspire.

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The Confederate Flag: America’s Most Loaded Generic Symbol of Rebellion

Privleged, white, rebels without a clue in Colorado.

Rebels without a clue in Colorado.

The Confederate flag is an American symbol like no other. The reasons for this aren’t complicated: the Rebel flag is both distinctly American and functionally anti-American at the same time. It’s American in the sense that it once stood for a rebellion started by Americans, but anti-American in the sense that those American rebels waged a treasonous war against, you know, the United States. Yes-sir-ee-Bob, the stars and bars represents the most chaotic moment in U.S. history, when the land of the free went to war over the fact that millions of its residents were decidedly unfree, and plenty of (white) Americans wanted to maintain that status quo.

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The Confederacy, Slavery, and the Fog of Historical Memory

The Orginal Cabinet for the Confederate States of America. President Jefferson Davis is third from right.

The Original Cabinet for the Confederate States of America. President Jefferson Davis is third from right.

Americans are still in the midst of celebrating (if indeed that’s the appropriate word to use) the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Yet even after all this time, a good many aspects of the war and its legacy are difficult for some people to accept and process. This is especially the case regarding the central role of slavery in causing the conflict, and how the war’s losing side, the Confederacy, should be remembered. The Confederate States of America existed from 1861-1865, and the men who founded the southern nation did so for the express purpose of protecting slavery from what they alleged to be the abolitionist, pro-racial equality stances of the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln.

Thus, the Confederacy was, at its core, a paradoxical entity: it was a slaveholders’ republic; a democracy based on white supremacy, in which the existence of black slavery explicitly contrasted with, and nurtured, white freedom.

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A Tea Party at the White House: The Confederate Flag as Reactionary Emblem

A massive army, perhaps 200 strong, of deluded Tea Party members protest sport the Confederate flag outside of the White House. Give them credit for being able to find the White House.

A massive army of deluded Tea Partiers sport the Confederate flag outside of the White House. Give them credit for being able to find the White House.

The scene of perhaps 200 confused, yelling white people gathered at the grounds of the World War II Memorial and the White House was indeed stirring. The most notable antecedents of these Tea Party dingbats, the Confederate revolutionaries who rebelled against the federal government from 1861-65, would be proud to see their torch being carried by such valiant souls.

On October 13, 2013, this group of motley rebels convened on Washington D.C., carrying the Confederate battle flag, of course, to complain about the World War II monument and other federal sites being closed due to the Republican-led shutdown, which started over Obamacare, then descended into a mindless brouhaha of conservative hen pecking. Leading these fearless warriors was Sen. Ted “Filibuster, but not Really” Cruz, the de facto figurehead of the shutdown itself. Sarah “Caribou Barbie” Palin, former half-term governor of America’s largest welfare state, tagged along — because why not. Despite being rallied by Senator Cruz, the guy who engineered his party’s shutdown of the federal government, the Tea Partiers blamed the shutdown on President Obama — because why not.

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