The Lost Cause: White Lies
1. White Lie(s) | noun. a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings|
Back in November of 2016, “the silent majority” spoke. They do that, now and again - they have for quite some time. “They” are the Neo-Nazi’s, the Alt-Right, the Tea Party, and a number of white Republicans. Some of “them” are your teachers, your doctors, your lawyers, your local police officers, your neighbors – “they” are disgruntled whites. White supremacists to be exact. In August, they crammed behind the wheel of a Challenger and ran nineteen Americans over screaming, “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” The message never changes, yet, many of us are continually surprised by what this “silent majority” has to say.
Some Americans are “shocked, and they are speechless”. Unlike those Americans, I and others like me, ask instead, “was there ever a moment when the persecution of non-white Americans wasn’t the norm?" Of course, the answer is no. Perhaps, these “shocked” Americans have a different understanding of what American history is, and what constitutes “normal” American behavior. Perhaps, they have been lied to.
Before Americans were “American,” whites were purging this land of nonwhites, heralding the birth of their prophesized Union. Those they didn’t kill, they beat, raped, bought, and exploited along the way. They did so because of their self-interest and their self-destructive delusions of grandeur and “manifest destiny.” Then, in the 1860’s, they went to war, killing millions of their own over the “right” to beat, rape, kill, and buy nonwhites. Then they lied about it.
In the decades since the closing of the original Black market (chattel slavery), whites have still been beating, raping, killing, and incarcerating nonwhites. All the while, they’ve been lying about it. Perhaps these “white lies” are the reason that, today, so many Americans, when faced with acts of racist or sexist violence, shake their heads and exclaim, “It’s 2017?!” As if our darkest moments exist only in the black and white photos of our past and not in the brilliant Techni-Color of present – or the startling, digital clarity of tomorrow.
Google defines a “white lie” as “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.” My use of the term here varies a bit – the white lies of which I write are neither harmless, nor trivial. I agree that the “Great America,” the “Exceptional America” is a lie designed to avoid hurting supremacist feelings – a pair of “Red, White, and Blue colored glasses” through which the privileged view the work of their forefathers. But the lie cannot be trivial because of the power that it has to inspire hate, fear, and, perhaps worst of all, indifference.
The “power” of white lies is the topic of this series. First, I focus on the “Lost Cause Myth” of the Civil War which is one of the most resilient and dangerous white lies of all. Its power has been on full display for the world to see in towns like Charlottesville, Charleston, Ferguson, Baltimore, and too many more. Its power won 45 the Oval Office.
The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville was organized by Richard Spencer, a self proclaimed neo-Nazi, and unapologetic racist. His “rally” was a literal call to arms for thousands of likeminded whites. At the supposed center of it all, was the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee that became a beacon for the Silent Majority. They gathered under cover of darkness like their hooded forefathers, burned torches, and reminded the world whose “soil” it was. Like the symbols of their so called “heritage,” and the “Great America” of their fictionalized past, they would not be replaced!
The “Great America” that the national anthem portrays, that racists burned Tiki Torches in Charlottesville for, and millions of Americans want back, is a lie. It is a comforting fiction, for some, because it paints a heart-warming, if horridly inaccurate, portrait of this land we call home. It is a grand white lie. White because it was crafted and disseminated by and for white people of various moments in our history, and white because it is an apologism – a defense or an excuse designed to justify white racist actions and avoid offending white racist sensibilities. It is essential to the creation of white American privilege.
If the “Great” (white) American past is, itself, a fiction, a white lie, it follows naturally that its survival and prosperity rests on the power of more white lies. The truth, a truth that many of us know all too well, would bring our fellow Americans face to face with a most unfavorable, world-shattering, privilege tainting realization: America has never been great.
The story of our people in this country has always been one of struggle - a struggle against tyranny.
Not the “so-called tyranny” of tariffs and tea taxes that the Founding Fathers lamented, but the tyranny of white supremacy that those same Founding Fathers benefitted from and built upon. With a pen drawn from an inkwell of blood, they wrote their tyranny into the laws of their new nation. Just as their descendants write white lies in our textbooks and screenplays.
The ink bled off the page and seeped into the rivers, harbors, and kitchen sinks of this nation like so many broken barrels of tea.
It’s time to stop drinking.
THE LOST CAUSE #1: White Lies
A Series by Arthur Haynes II
Next: Hate is Heritage . . . receipts included!