Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to restore the glories of the Old South

I have an idea for people who value their region's heritage so much that they continue to wave what they think is the Confederate flag (though it is actually the battle flag of Northern Virginia).

I suggest that they volunteer to be slaves. For life.

Fact: The 19th-century Southern way of life would have been impossible without enslaved people.

Fact: Just waving a flag will not bring back the shady verandahs, the mint julep breakfasts, and the boundless cotton fields enjoyed by rich white people. Neither will it bring back the advantages enjoyed by poor white people thanks to the vast enslaved class that was much worse off than they were (and if you can't imagine what those advantages might have been, read this article written by a Jefferson Davis supporter in 1861).

Probability: The one thing that could bring back that romantic bygone era would be if, once again, some 39% of the population were enslaved (that's the average percentage of enslaved people in the Confederate states).

Proposal: Let's recognize that no one values personal liberty as much as Southerners do. And let's take their word that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism. Let's encourage true Confederate patriots, especially white folks who are not racists, to volunteer to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset. There will be no pay, of course, and no bothersome education; but food, lodging, and two sets of work clothes per year will be provided. And the South will rise again.

I realize that the above photo was taken in Oklahoma, which was not a state during the time of the Confederacy. In fact, Oklahoma had a lower percentage of slaves than did the actual Confederate states--perhaps only 14%. So, to be fair, only 14% of Oklahomans will need to volunteer for slavery in order to bring back the halcyon days of yore--546,000 of their 3.9 million inhabitants should do the trick. It won't be hard to find that many volunteers, will it?

Admittedly, it may be harder to persuade 57% of South Carolinians to sign up. To match their percentage of slaves in 1860, they would need 2.75 million volunteers today--but surely nostalgia for the good ole days will eventually move the hearts of the good ole boys, and they'll do the right thing, don't you think?

But wait: as elegant as my proposal appears, it might not work. South Carolina has removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have outlawed Confederate flags on state-issued license plates. (So has my adopted state, Maryland, which--though a Union state because federal troops forced it to be--enslaved 13% of its people in 1860). Other states are talking seriously about removing Confederate symbols.

Maybe there aren't enough Confederate flag-wavers to make voluntary slavery work. Maybe the apparently omnipresent flag-wavers are really just a few noisy, annoying people who risk giving millions of really nice Southerners--some of whom I'm closely related to--a bad name. Still, I'm sure that any flag-wavers who do volunteer to become slaves will have no trouble finding masters. And I'm also sure that once their masters take measures to keep them off the streets, the South will be an even lovelier place.

Here's a chart showing the percentage of enslaved people in the 11 Confederate states one year before they joined the Confederacy (I adapted it from 1860 census figures). The first 6 states to join the Confederacy were the 6 with the highest percentage of slaves. The last state to join had the lowest percentage. Once a state's percentage of slaves dropped below 25%, it didn't join at all.

By the way, I'm not accepting any comments, pro or con, for this post. I do hope all my readers recognize satire when they see it.

No comments: