Jeffrey Goldberg wants to know two things: First, do Republicans actually believe they can win African American voters while supporting politicians who endorse Confederacy-worship, and second, how can African Americans in the South live surrounded by a culture that regularly and unapologetically venerates the Confederacy:
The true, spin-free, answer, obviously, is that the Republican Party would rather not risk offending mythopoetic white Southerners by calling the Confederacy what it actually was -- a vast gulag of slavery, murder and rape. As an electoral strategy, it's a fine one -- an immoral one, but a practical one, something that has worked for the Republicans for more than 40 years (though the gains it has made in the South have been tempered by losses in the Northeast and elsewhere). But what I don't understand is why African-Americans, in the south as well as the north, don't simply rise up as a collective and say: No more. That's it. Stop the veneration of evil men.
For outrageous as it is that there are black students who attend a Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, the simple fact is that it pales in comparison to the other things African Americans in the South have had to worry about. Jacksonville, Florida, where that high school is located, for instance, has a double-digit poverty rate, a double-digit unemployment rate, and a fairly high murder rate, all of which disproportionately affect the city’s black population. Confederate-worship is annoying, but outrage falls pretty low on the hierarchy of needs, all things considered.
I would also add that African Americans simply don’t have the social capital to make people care about bigotry against them. Outside of high-profile incidents or blatant cases of racism, there aren't many people concerned with ubiquitous Confederate veneration. Indeed, it doesn’t even come across as obviously wrong in the way that a Nazi flag would. Put another way, this country has made an effort to forget its racial sins, and African Americans don’t have the social power necessary to challenge it, or stop the Confederate mythologizing of (some) Southern whites.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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