To paraphrase American poet Shawn Carter, I just read a magazine that messed up my day.
The New Republic's Brian Beutler published a piece earlier this week calling on the United States to make April 9 a national holiday. Tomorrow will mark the 150 anniversary of Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse - a day that Beutler thinks should be called "New Birth of Freedom Day."
Beutler has put me in a bind.
I'm not a Confederate sympathizer, and I cringe every time I pass the giant Confederate flag on I-165 en route to Montgomery. But, Beutler's piece is bullying and heavy handed. It contradicts the very advice that he claims to adhere to; it sugarcoats the North's history on race; and his proposed name for a national holiday is laughable.
Condemning slavery and Jim Crow is the easiest, laziest form of progressive thought.
Congratulations, Mr. Beutler, you're right. Racism is terrible. Cue the fireworks. Look, objectively, we can all agree in 2015 that slavery and Jim Crow laws were wrong - but they also don't paint a complete picture of America's treatment of minorities both north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Slavery and Jim Crow are also the only racial topics that are even adequately addressed in textbooks (yes, even Southern textbooks). It's every other American injustice that we gloss over.
The new birth of freedom? Hardly.
As Randy Newman writes in his song "Rednecks," the slaves were indeed free. They were free to be put in a cage in Harlem in New York City, and free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago and the West-Side, and free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland, and free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis, and free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco, and free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston.
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