Today I heard from my friend who attended the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter that the NAACP has been vocal about how they believe anyone “celebrating” the anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War is perpetuating racism. I looked at news reports and found this quote from the president of the NAACP.
“This was not something to commemorate,” DuBose said. “Commemorate means that you’re honoring something. There’s nothing honorable about this period. Nothing at all. We cannot somehow try to sanitize slavery. You can’t do it.”
As a Civil War reenactor of fifteen years, I take serious issue with being lumped into such a broad statement simply because I happen to be a (mostly) white woman involved in the sesquicentennial. Where exactly is the sanitation of slavery happening? I’m offended by the NAACP continually making statements insinuating that people commemorating the Civil War in any way are perpetuating racism. I am not a racist and me being a Civil War reenactor does not automatically put the racist stamp on me, nor does my involvement in the reenacting community mean I am sanitizing slavery. The NAACP has been targeting Civil War reenactors and preservationists for years and they are largely responsible for the public stigma attached to being a reenactor. We are seen by the public as being stuck in the past, ignorant, toothless Southerners who long for the days when we still had slaves. This is not true, by and large.
Here is a dose of truth. We are not celebrating the days of slavery, nor are we interested in sanitizing it. We are honoring our ancestors, which the NAACP does, and we are teaching history to the public so it’s not repeated, which the NAACP does as well. The fact of the matter is there are racists in every walk of life. The continuous and repeated attacks upon Civil War reenactors, historians, preservationists and enthusiasts makes the NAACP just as guilty of ignorance and hatred as any other organization based solely upon race. I have never encountered a single Civil War reenactor teaching people in such a manner that glorifies slavery or the way African-Americans were treated in the nineteenth century. While there are some extremists within the reenacting community, the majority have no desire to promote racist or sanitation ideology. On the contrary, there have been incidences in which white supremacist groups have tried to join reenacting groups and they have been chased away from the events by the very people alleged to be ignorant, racist and hateful. For me personally, I don’t even look at people by their color. Most of my friends early in school were black. It just didn’t matter.
Race is still an issue in America because people like the NAACP, the KKK, and so on make it an issue. In my belief system, the soul is colorless and we have reincarnated into all races, both genders, and every economic circumstance. Hating people for those reasons is the same as hating yourself. The NAACP is just as guilty as any other organization of that nature.
Let’s not forget the African-Americans who reenact the Civil War alongside white people. Are they betraying their own race by associating with reenactments? No, they are not. They are reaching out to the public to tell the stories of their ancestors and are working alongside historical groups instead of working against them. The NAACP could learn a lot about public outreach by looking at African-American reenactors and understanding that nothing can be accomplished with this us vs them attitude. Instead of fighting reenactors and people commemorating the war, they should begin reaching out and working with us in order to promote solidarity and prove that the war was not fought in vain. They are equally to blame for perpetuating racial separation.
One thing I noticed in DuBose’s statement is the following: “There’s nothing honorable about this period. Nothing at all.”
Really? Maybe he should rethink that when he looks the descendants of these brave men in the eye. African-Americans fought bravely for the Union and the Confederacy. There’s nothing honorable about this period? Not even the former slaves and freedmen who took up arms to decide their own destiny even though it meant possibly being captured and sent back into slavery? I would say these men are pretty honorable.
As my friend Nellie said, “There is a big difference between commemorating and celebrating. Considering that the war also put an end to slavery, you’d think they might think that it was worth celebrating.”
Stop perpetuating racial division. Start honoring all soldiers for what they were — brave men who sacrificed their lives to fight for their beliefs. It’s easy to talk the talk but I doubt many today could walk the walk. Stand before a loaded cannon and see how brave any of you remain. These people, no matter what color they were, possessed the most bravery this country has ever seen. That is why we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. They lived, fought and died by their beliefs. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. These aren’t just people in books. These were our ancestors, our family, our blood. No, we cannot sanitize slavery but we cannot alter history either.