Opinion: It’s time for Southerners to get over it

Kevin Griffin

Abbi Pittman

Kevin GriffinThe week before last marked 150 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, a landmark event in the history of our republic, as it freed Southern slaves.

This is the latest in a series of events to commemorate the Civil War, a watershed event that haunts us to this day.

The Civil War resonates especially in the South, where so many people hold onto idyllic images of the “Old South” and its noble stand for self-determination against the onslaught of federal oppression.

It was not, according to many Southerners, a conflict over slavery, but rather over the vital American principle that states have a right to leave a nation that refuses to serve their interests. It was about economics, tariffs and Northern disrespect for the South, they say.

All of this is nonsense. Well, maybe not completely. If slavery is not economic, then what is?

But the plain and painful fact is that the Confederacy was none of those things. It was a slave republic.

Even if today’s cadre of confederates does not think so, their revered ancestors certainly did.

Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens, upon the initial succession, stated that the defining difference between the Confederate States and United States was the former’s recognition of the institution of slavery.

But didn’t states rights play a role? Yes, but not in the way that is usually presented. The South, on multiple occasions, stood against states’ rights on issues such as the Fugitive Slave Act, where the “right” to own slaves were threatened.

Besides, a bit of common sense should be enough to dispel this. How does one go about offering indignant outrage over one’s right to deprive others of their rights without being completely hypocritical?

Now, 150 years later, we’re overdue in telling many Southerners to get over it.

By get over I do not mean that we should forget history. The problem goes further than forgetting history; it goes to remembering the wrong history.

There are many Southerners who have to face the unpleasant facts about their history. Not accepting them means a warped view of reality with negative consequences for the political and social world.

I must confess my own role in this, though. As someone who has deep family roots in the South, I acknowledge that I have ancestors who owned slaves and who fought in the Civil War.

But I know they fought on the wrong side of history. And it’s time some of my fellow Southerners admit the same.

Griffin, a freshman journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.