Saturday, October 8, 2011
Secessions and Insurrections
Secessions and Insurrections
Today is the day that Durham was supposed to start its great discussions on race, triggered by an exhibit that made its debut at the Museum of Life and Science, "Race: Are We Really So Different." So what better way was there for a black dude like me to kick off my series examining race then to visit the Civil War commemorative event at Bennett Place State Historic Site?
For those not familiar with Bennett Place , according to the brochure, it is the site of the largest surrender of the Civil War." A fact that a lot of white Southerners are still not too happy about.
I must admit, when I rolled up in the Bennett Place parking lot and saw all those Confederate flag license plates, I started to make a u turn and head to the museum but since the Race exhibit was 14 bucks and the commemoration was free, of course, I headed on into Bennett Place.
Now since I have seen more than a few white folks make themselves right at home at black cultural festivals in Durham; Bimbe, Junteenth, so, I thought that I would see, at least a couple of black faces in the crowd. Or at the very least, see some half clothed black man running frantically through the field chased by hound dogs yellin' "save yourselves!"
I was wrong. I was the only "person of color" within a five mile radius.
See, black folks get nervous around Confederate flags, we expect at any moment to hear "Yeeee Hawww, we got us some live ones, boys ! Gimme a rope!"
Fortunately the commemoration was not that type of party. Just a bunch of white folks celebrating the good ol' days. When life was simple and black people like me knew their place.
They had a wagon ride, some dude teaching people how to load a musket and even a recruiting station to sign up for the war. Now, I wasn't exactly sure if the recruiting station was a reenactment or if they were actually planning to take over West Durham.
But that was about it. I made it out alive without getting lynched. Exit the black guy, stage right. None the worst for his hair raising adventure.
I guess the Confederacy is part of American History. But so are slave insurrections.
What if next August 21, African Americans got together at some state park and had a commemoration of the Nat Turner slave rebellion? Instead of hanging up Confederate Flags, we decked the joint out in the Black Liberation colors of red, black and green. How about instead of playing country music we cranked up some Public Enemy jams and instead of being sponsored by the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" the affair was sponsored by the Sons of the "Deacons for Defense" or the "Daughters of the Black Panther Party."
That would go over real big. I can hear the cries of reverse racism, opening up old wounds or instigating a race riot from the area Right Wing radio hosts, now.
Although, the state of North Carolina flips part of the bill for Bennett Place, I doubt very seriously if they would fund "Insurrection Weekend."
See , black folks and whites folks perceive the Civil War differently. To white folks, Confederate soldiers are heroes who should be honored, to black folks they are a bunch of traitors who got their butts kicked trying to keep our ancestors picking cotton.
Kinda like a glass half empty/half full, situation.
While, there is a fear that anything dealing with the more militant aspects of black history might produce the next Malcolm X, there is no such fear that a Civil War commemoration may produce the next David Duke.
Also, while many white folks (and some black folks) are scared to death that any attempts to teach Arican American children the more "nontraditional" parts of Black history in fear it may cause Mr. Buchanan's 8th grade history class to rise up and give him a beat down, there is no concern that a Civil War reenactment might inspire some southern sore loser to get a little payback for their bitter defeat a century ago. Given the history of this country, the latter is more probable.
All people have the right to tell their own stories. However, for black folks, we have very few venues to speak our own truths. The reasons are several.
Many black folks who put on cultural events work so hard at not offending white folks that they sacrifice historical accuracy. People who put on events from a white perspective have no such hang ups.
See, the bottom line is , white folks embrace their history; the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a shame that we run away from ours.
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org