by Catherine Arjet
When Gov. Phil Bryant proclaimed April “Confederate Heritage Month”, I was appalled. The idea that at a time like this, when racial tensions are so high, we would celebrate those who sought to divide our nation as a way to continue to uphold one of the most brutal forms of slavery the world has ever seen, seems nonsensical. At this point in our county’s history, we need to stand together. Memorializing those who tried to tear it apart is only dividing us further.
Growing up in the South, or even just living in Southern culture, we are taught to heroize Confederate soldiers and to think of them as brave defenders of their homeland against an onslaught of “Northern Aggression.” We see statues of these men guarding our government buildings and universities, we go to schools with names like Lee, Davis, and Jackson where we learn that the Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery. We internalize all of this as children. We play war and lead our brave, Southern troops against an imaginary Northern attack, we tell stories of great-great-great grandparents who fought in the war and whose tales have become immortalized in family history, and whenever someone says something against the confederacy, we give them that old line we learned back in elementary school: it was about states’ rights, not slavery.
The problem with that though is we’re wrong. The Civil War was about the states’ right to hold slaves. They made that very clear in the Cornerstone Speech. Sure, the average person fighting for the confederacy probably didn’t own anyone (and some enslaved people even fought for the South), but they were defending slavery. This is why the Confederate flag is more than just a symbol of Southern pride, and “Confederate Heritage Month” is more than just a time to remember our ancestors. They both celebrate a shameful time in our history when a group of people stood up and said “we want to keep our fellow human beings as property and treat them like animals so badly that we are willing to tear this great nation apart if you try to stop us.” I personally, do not want to celebrate that.