The South may have lost the Civil War, but when it came to public opinion, it won the culture war well into the 20th century (“With malice toward all, with charity for none,” D.J. Tice column, June 21).
Most Americans, including historians, accepted the idea that the South had fought nobly, not to retain slavery but, rather, to uphold “states’ rights.”
The widespread acceptance of this idea fueled the “Lost Cause” myth. That myth, in turn, led to veterans of both Northern and Southern armies coming together for national reconciliation late in the 19th and into the 20th centuries, at the expense of African-Americans.
So-called “scientific racism” in books, encyclopedias and magazines upheld the idea that African-Americans were inferior to white Americans. Thus, white southerners needed to control them through Jim Crow segregation.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson announced that D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” was true history. In the 1930s, Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” not only became a bestseller but a huge box office hit as a movie. In the 1950s, Disney’s “Song of the South” glorified plantation life in “the wonderful time before the war.”
All of these publications and media events perpetuated racist ideas.
Given this long infusion of racist thinking, removing offensive statues, flags and monuments is necessary. Failure to do so indicates our acceptance of the part they still play in American life.
Bias and racism still poison white relations with African-Americans. They deserve dignity and respect.
Shirley Leckie Reed, of St. Paul, is professor emerita, University of Central Florida.