While preparing to teach the Civil War again this fall I came across an article by civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander. In the article Alexander considers the reality that people of color, particularly black men are viewed as scary, threatening: a problem to be solved (in ways that in recent months often seem to lead to violent ends). But she goes on to explain that statistics continually show that black men are no more violent than other people (she explores the importance of unemployment in these numbers). So why in our supposedly 'post-racial' world is this characterization--and the violence done in the name of protecting communities from people of color--so prevalent?
As I'm sure my students are sick of hearing me say, it all goes back to the cause of the Civil War: slavery.
The racism created to justify the American slave system remains a powerful agent preventing reconciliation, peace and the equal enjoyment of rights in this country. The Civil War may have freed the slaves but it was an unfinished revolution that never fully freed people of color from the chains of racism. In order to accomplish that victory we must return to the past and re-learn the lessons the Civil War has to teach us. Only then can we solve the "perpetual problem."
Read Michelle Alexander's full article, "The Zimmerman Mindset," here
For some reading on the lessons Civil War soldiers learned during the war read Chandra Manning's What This Cruel War Was Over