Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1632 - Why there is no Lost Cause

  “Hank, I have to go to Washington, D.C. Can you fill in for me on the panel of the Museum of the Lost Cause Symposium?” Those were the words of Faya Rose Toure, my wife of nearly 49 years. I had a radio program scheduled as well as my weekly law office meeting. But I went to Montgomery for the Museum of the Lost Cause Symposium. The event was organized by Dr. Derryn Moten, chair of the History Department of Alabama State University. I want to share some of what I said or tried to say, or intended to say.

  I say, there is No Lost Cause. It was never lost. It is alive and well. It can be perceived most anytime, most anywhere, in most anything, if we open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our spirits. In fact, The Lost Cause is more visible in 2018 than at any time in the last 53 years. Just look to the White House. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  I say that the Lost Cause means different things to different people. To some, it means loss of slavery, the holding of other human beings in oppressive bondage. To others, it means the loss of White supremacy. To still others, it means that the power of the South was lost. To some others, it means the loss or the Civil War (War Between the States to some). To many, it means all of the foregoing in various combinations. I say the Lost Cause was never lost because slavery was transformed into peonage, forced labor, share-cropping, oppressive mass incarceration, poverty, etc. in many areas of the South. These practices dominated the South for nearly a hundred years after the Civil War and passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  I say the Lost Cause is not lost because White supremacy continued for nearly 100 years after the Civil War. It continues to this very day. White Supremacy is the belief and the power to impose the belief that White people are supreme in all things and the belief that all people of color, especially Black people, are inferior in all things. After slavery, White supremacy manifested itself in segregation, Jim Crow, violence, lynchings, domestic terrorism, and other actions that imposed subjugation for nearly a hundred years. It is still being manifested in the wrongful shootings of Black men, mass incarceration, economic deprivation, miseducation, etc. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  I say the Lost Cause is not lost because the power of the South was dominant for nearly 100 years. Southern U.S. Senators were so embedded in the congressional legislative process that Congress could not even enact an anti-lynching law, not to speak of civil rights and other laws to counteract segregation. Not one anti-segregation act passed for nearly 80 years. Nazism and other forms of White supremacy are on the rise as I write this. A proponent of White supremacy occupies the White House at this very moment. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  I say the Lost Cause is not lost because the Civil War is still being fought in statehouses and courthouses in cities, counties, states and federal jurisdictions across the South and beyond. It is still too often about subjugating Africans in America through the denial of voting rights, mass incarceration, economic deprivations, miseducation, destruction of communities, police violence, etc. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  Symbolism is a powerful tool in the continuing struggle to implement the Lost Cause. It is a moving force of the Lost Cause. Symbolism is powerful because it gets into all of us without our screening it. Monuments are not just statutes and other symbols erected; they are statutes and other symbols erected on public property. They are lifted to heights for all to see. Their location, size, and construction say over and over that this is what the public should strive to be like and to emulate. Imagine people telling our Black children that they should emulate Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forest, who worked and fought and killed to make sure these very children would be born into slavery. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  Some keep saying that monuments are our history and we can’t change our history. First, monuments are not history. They are symbolic expressions in which each sees what he/she needs or wants to see. History is in books or films or oral stories. The claim that monuments are history is a specious and diversionary tactic to protect White Supremacy. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  Second, we change history all the time. Whoever writes about history changes history. When the reality of slavery is left out of schoolbooks and classes, we change history. When we say the Civil War was not about slavery, we change history. When we corrupt the achievements forged during Reconstruction, we change history. When we leave out the violence and crime that destroyed Reconstruction, we change history. When we whitewash how Africans in America were forced to live separately and unequally for nearly another 100 years, we change history. When we leave African Americans out of our schoolbooks, other books and classes, we change history. We change history all the time. The Lost Cause is not lost.

  We don’t just change history relative to African Americans. We change the history of Native Americans and others. Native Americans owned the lands when the Europeans came. Their lands were taken, their culture was smashed, and most of their people were killed. When we then make all this appear to be the fault of Native Americans, we change history. The Lost Cause is not lost, for it lurks in so many actions and in so many moments.

Epilogue – It’s amazing how struggles stretch out over many years, even centuries. The Lost Cause struggle has been raging in one form or another for almost 160 years. In fact, the struggle commenced well before 160 years ago. It is still raging in varied forms, places, and arenas. The Lost Cause is not Lost, for too many are still planting its seeds, cultivating its plants, and harvesting its fruits every day.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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