Readers of the Washington (NC) Daily News respond (below) to the newspaper’s recent article on the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
To The Editor:
I would like to thank Mr. Bruce Donald for his recent (2/02/05) history lesson. Mr. Donald, slavery had to be the cause of the war. Most of the wealth in this country in 1860 was concentrated in the Confederate States where slavery was legal. You write that "at the start of the war, the Union actually had more slaves states than the Confederacy." True, but only by one. Why didn’t you tell us where those slave states were? According to the 1860 Census, there were 3,521,110 slaves below the Mason Dixon line. Slavery, which was "free labor" was very profitable. With only 30 percent of the nation’s "free" population, the South had 60 percent of the wealthiest men. The 1860 per capita income in the south was $3,978.00; in the north it was $2,040.00. The enslavement of the Indians didn’t work; indentured servitude didn’t work, so the only solution to the manpower shortage was the product that the Dutch and Portuguese had for sale: African slaves.
Go to http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog10/maps/. The Confederacy and other territories greatly outnumbered the Union in areas that condoned slavery. At the above mentioned website and several others, you will see a map that depicts the free vs slave states. Slavery was legally enforced everywhere below the Mason Dixon Line. Carolina, which later became North Carolina and South Carolina, was founded as a slave owner’s colony. By the way, if slavery was so prevalent in the North, why didn’t runaway slaves go south? Also, if slavery was just an afterthought to southern landowners and politicians, why did the Confederate Constitution have Articles pertaining to the legal rights of slaveholders? (Article IV: Section 2; Section 3, No. 3); If the landed gentry in the south saw the likelihood of losing their number one asset, don’t you think that was reason enough to secede from the Union? Mr. Donald, go to www.sonofthesouth.net and read an article written on May 11, 1861 in Harper’s Weekly. The article is titled "A Few Figures on Slave and Free States." I often wonder what would have happened to my great-grandparents, and me, if the South had won the Civil War?
In the February 13th issue of the WDN, Mr. Louis W. Martin, Jr. made two comments that brought tears to my eyes. The first one was: "Slavery was wrong, but my forefathers weren’t wrong for doing it. It was wrong, but it was a way of life," and "The schools were segregated. I thought that was all right, as far as I knew." A "way of life", Mr. Martin? Human bondage was a way of life? What about my ancestor’s "way of life"?
Yes, the schools, including mine, were segregated, and I wish that you could have attended class with me, in a cold one room school for six years, grade 1-6. You could have helped me bring in buckets of coal to fire up the pot-bellied heater that stood in the middle of the floor.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
To the Editor:
The recent interview with Louis Martin was excellent, but I take great exception to the fact your columnist used Heidi Berich from the Southern Poverty Law Center as a source. Please don’t take this as criticism, but rather your source, Heidi Berich of the Southern Poverty Law "Circus."
This organization, headed by Morris Dees, has their own agenda: to be the "watchdog" to "protect" us from groups they deem to be hate groups. People who can think for themselves and do not fall into their trap are labeled "hate mongers," and those who aren’t willing to think for themselves are the ones Dees and the SPLC prey upon.
The SPLC and its cronies are often referred to as "watchdogs," but who gave them the license to watch out for the rest of us? Who exactly appointed them watchdogs? Where is it written, except in the corporate newspapers and on HBO that they have any credibility at all? Is there a federal, state, or county department that issues such licenses? They say they keep track of violent organizations, but isn’t that what we paid law enforcement authorities for?
Have you or your staff ever visited the SPLC web site? They do much more than just report on violent groups. They slander anyone who voices an opinion which differs from accepted orthodoxy, as defined of course, by the SPLC. What would you say about any group that tells the public to put its judgment on hold and let it do the judging for them? Is our judgment so poor, our powers of perception so bad that we must surrender our judgment to the likes of the SPLC, and its crew?
Of course, some of the groups they "monitor" are indeed hate groups, but just how many aren’t, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans? It’s a simple matter to smear someone’s reputation by lumping them in with admitted lunatics and hate groups. It’s wrong and does more harm than good.
If the SPLC is so sure of its position, why does it not invest its huge resources in logically arguing, point by point, with those whom they so vehemently disagree? Why does it stoop to character assassination, and reporting its observations to law enforcement authorities? Think about it for a moment, a multi-million dollar organization that spies on private citizens and makes reports on them to law enforcement authorities! Doesn’t this sound quite a bit "Orwellian?" If I need to make a decision about an individual or group, I’d prefer to rely on my own eyes and ears, my own judgment, and do it myself. Anyone who tells me that they will be my watchdog is someone I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw. With the SPLC reaching millions, influencing millions and the millions who are coughing up millions to support them, which group really needs watching?
For a better understanding of the SPLC, check out the Morris Dees Fact Sheet at http://www.patriotist.com/dees.htm
EDWARD L. HARDING
The Washington (NC) Daily News interviews Louis W. Martin Jr. of the North Carolina Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (below). Of course, the paper also "balances" the Martin interview with a "sidebar" discussion with Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Beirich claims that 300 members of the SCV in North Carolina were expelled "for asking the group not to be racist." In fact, only five members were expelled by the Division for disloyalty to their fellow members.
You can respond to this article by contacting Executive Editor Rachel Brown Hackney at (252) 946-2144.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Heritage vs. hate
By EUGENE L. TINKLEPAUGH, Staff Writer
Before revealing his views on civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the existence of racism in the South and on his personal encounter with desegregation, Louis Wilkinson Martin Jr. asks if he can tape the interview.
Martin, a member of the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans and an advocate of Southern heritage, says he is accustomed to being misquoted and seeing his perspective turned radical in print.
"The news media likes to fan the flames," he explains, "because controversy sells."
Martin says the media play up the sentiment that racism is "alive and well in the South, when the same case could be made in the North — maybe even more so."
He speaks of a division in the United States that goes back to the founding of the nation — not along racial lines, he contends, but along the Mason-Dixon line.
The North acted as the oppressor, the aggressor and the exploiter of poor Southern farmers and blacks alike, according to Martin.
A particularly sore subject with Martin is how history books have portrayed the Civil War.
"The way it was represented," he indicates, "the South was wrong. But it wasn’t a civil war; it was a second American Revolution."
He lists a string of factors — excluding slavery — that resulted in the war between the states and refers to injustices, such as taxation without representation, the violation of states’ rights and the South’s constitutional right to secede. Almost all of the war’s battles took place in the South, he points out.
"Slavery was wrong, but my forefathers weren’t wrong in doing it. It was wrong, but it was a way of life," Martin says.
Waving the battle flag
The balance between heritage and hate has spurred much controversy in the Southern heritage movement and among outsiders looking in on organizations operating under the banner of heritage.
At the center of the controversy is the Rebel flag that was flown during the war of northern aggression.
"The Confederate battle flag is seen as racist and demeaning because it was used wrong," Martin explains.
But, he asserts, the same could be said for the Stars and Stripes.
"White supremacists such as the KKK, the Skinheads and the Nazis have misused both flags," Martin points out. "Now African-Americans say the battle flag is offensive. I just think there’s a little hypocrisy there."
To Martin, "the battle flag is a symbol of my Southern heritage, of loyalty and honor."
Opponents increasingly have attacked it as a symbol of segregation, most recently, in South Carolina, demanding it be taken down from the Statehouse.
"Even the Sons of Union Veterans supported South Carolina displaying the battle flag," Martin asserts, "because they knew what it stood for."
South Carolina lowered the battle flag from atop the Capitol dome of its Statehouse in 2000, moving it to the lawn.
Walking a thin line
"It’s good to be reminded," Martin says of the Daily News’ civil rights series and Black History Month in general. "We should try to learn from history so that we don’t repeat the same failures and mistakes."
Slavery, discrimination and racism are wrong, he says, pointing out these racially motivated atrocities did not exist only in the South.
"Yet," he states, "when you talk about racism, the finger’s always pointed to the South."
According to Martin, "Racism was most terrible in the North, where most of the lynchings, mobs and killings took place.
"I’m not saying that the South was not guilty," he continues, "but we should share in that guilt."
It is this conflict over the emotion of guilt that has produced distinct factions of the heritage-hate debate.
According to Martin, "It should be the choice of a man and woman who they marry. The shortcoming of that is the children," he contends.
"We have not advanced enough in our society where the children of interracial parents are not singled out," he further explains. "I’m not saying that interracial marriage is wrong. I’m just pointing out the consequences."
Martin concedes, "Yes, racism still exists on both sides, unfortunately."
The keys to furthering racial harmony are Christian love and education, he asserts.
"More nonminorities need to read Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream,’ and more nonwhites need to read the other side of history. Look at the facts and then make up your mind for yourself," he says.
Martin says of King, "He did what needed to be done in bringing to the forefront the plight of his people being denied equal rights. And he did it in a method I agree with, that being nonviolence."
Martin shies away from saying anything negative about the civil rights leader — "because what good would it do?" However, he hints at aspects of King’s personal life that bring into question the revered man’s character.
"We do know now that the things happening then were wrong. But I don’t know that I saw the bad side," he says of his Beaufort County roots. "I wasn’t educated to the plight of blacks. The schools were segregated. I thought that was all right, as far as I knew.
"So I didn’t understand the inequities that were actually there," he continues. "I was still a teenager during the civil rights movement. I saw the unrest and didn’t understand why they had to go to such extreme measures.
"It’s unfortunate it took civil unrest to get the inadequacies corrected," he adds.
"We can’t continue to have segregation. We can’t survive as a nation if we’re divided," Martin says.
"The civil rights movement brought us to where we are today," he adds. "I think we’ll make much more progress in the next 40 years."
Asked what held back progress for so many years, Martin answers, "Hard hearts."
But, he adds, "We’re headed in the right direction in an acceptable timeframe. Some would say it’s too fast; others, that it’s too slow. Many will say we’ve seen steady progress."
Organizations said to fan flames of discord
By EUGENE TINKLEPAUGH
According to Heidi Beirich, a spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is the "granddaddy of Southern heritage."
Beirich is the deputy director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, a watchdog of discrimination.
"We focus on hate groups under Southern heritage," she explained in a recent telephone interview. "There are a couple organizations that are part of a larger neo-Confederacy movement," which, Beirich contended, disseminate overtly racist propaganda.
Beirich noted the neo-Confederacy movement was "seeing an increase in the radicalization in terms of race," and alluded to an "attempted takeover" of the SCV organization.
She pointed to 300 members of the organization in North Carolina being thrown out "for asking the group not to be racist."
The radicalization, she said, started with the campaign of a few key white supremacists targeting the group because it was so wealthy and had so many members.
The concerted effort is gaining ground because, according to Beirich, "moderate members are leaving the movement or being thrown out, causing the organization to become more hard-line."
Beirich said the law center is keeping a "tight watch" on the SCV, reporting, tracking and monitoring its actions — "that’s really all we can do."
She added, "We wish the moderates had won; instead, they’ve been purged,"
According to Beirich, "The SCV has been around since the 1890s, when they took care of Confederate cemeteries and made sure vets got recompense.
"Very recently," she continued, "Southern heritage has seen a revitalization."
The made-for-TV movie, "Roots," based on the book by Alex Haley, kick-started the movement, Beirich suggested.
"It got a lot of people interested in looking into their past; and consequently, spurred the growth of the movement."
When people started attacking the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of segregation, Beirich said, neo-Confederacy revitalized in its defense.
As for the SPLC’s approach, she added: "Rather than debate them on what the battle flag actually stands for, we’re more interested in concentrating on their racist beliefs."
The actions of the hard-liners, she contended, prove their deep-rooted racism, "regardless of what they think about these symbols."
She pointed to the League of the South’s open stance against interracial marriage. Its tenets, she said, "… defend segregation; if (the League) seceded, it would be an Anglo-Celtic society; and in this new society, blacks would be in the lower ranks of society."
The Council of Conservative Citizens, Beirich added, "is more crudely racist. They do things like comparing Michael Jackson to an ape."