January 4, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Race, the American Founding, and the Disfiguring of American History
[This installment of MY CORNER represents a substantial re-working and re-write of the November 19, 2017 commentary, with substantial additional material included.]
One of the major subjects that most self-styled “conservatives” seem to find uncomfortable discussing in any depth, indeed, often flee from like mice before the hungry house cat, is race. The general feeling always seems to be that anything a prominent “conservative” might say on the topic, unless it be to offer some sort of fearful confirmation or more nuanced affirmation of standard Leftist/cultural Marxist arguments, will be construed and interpreted by the near entirety of the media and our political and academic culture to be “racially insensitive,” or implicitly (or even explicitly) countenancing “racism.”
Many of these accusations are, as we know, blatantly political in their usage. We are now accustomed to hearing such charges, such intimations and suggestions, trotted out at election time to characterize and disauthorize a Republican or conservative candidate for public office, even if that candidate has more than paid his due to the dominant and standard Establishment views on the subject. Even such subservient ideological milquetoasts as Mitt Romney and George W. Bush could not avoid the accusation from the Leftist media and from the professional race inquisitors: for the new inquisitors, it is not just a question of avoiding embarrassing or difficult questions, one must actively engage in “combatting racism” to the point of groveling publicly and expressing regret for centuries of “white oppression,” “slavery,” “colonialism,” and racial inequality. Only then may the penitent meekly seek admission into the fellowship of the “new elect” of racial Progressivism, and even then, for whites it always remains an extremely difficult task. “Whiteness” is always a powerful impediment that must be overcome, if at all.
There is always someone like the Reverend William Barber (notorious former head of the North Carolina NAACP who now leads the national “Poor Peoples’ Campaign”) to denounce the miscreant who is perceived as less than pure, who certainly must harbor indelible “racist sentiments” down deep in his heart. After all, the cultural Marxist template that increasingly dominates not just academia but in the public square makes the assumption before all and any discussion may be had or entered into that America was, from its inception and founding, a “racist” nation, a country essentially based in racialist precepts and with a foundation incorporating racial inequality into the basic law of the land.
With such a template, such a measuring stick now regulating thought and discourse, is it any wonder that even such collaborators and enablers as Bush, John McCain, and most of the Neoconservatives, despite their best efforts to demonstrate their craven fidelity to the essentially Leftist narrative on race, equality and civil rights, still find it hard to “make the grade” in the eyes of a Barber, a Maxine Waters, an Al Sharpton, or any of the other race hustlers out there—especially now that their friends are in near total control of our university campuses and at networks like CNN or MSNBC.
The goal posts of Marxist Progressivism are always moving forward, the standard and narrative always advancing further Left. Even “conservatives” who once believed that all they had to do was endorse the “civil rights” bills of the 1960s and advocate “equal opportunity” for all, and, to quote that newly-minted image of Martin Luther King as a “conservative” icon—that people should be “judged on the quality of their character, not on the color of their skin”—are now looked at with suspicion. It should be apparent—but apparently is not—to Republicans and conservatives that you can never really get to the left of a Democrat on race in an election, especially if he or she is black.
The fundamental problem is, ironically, that in a certain sense the cultural Marxist critique of America’s founding and its founding documents has some validity, but only up to point. The United States was not founded on some egalitarian idea about the equal rights of all men to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those words in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence were directed specifically at the British parliament from which the colonists had not received the rights due as Englishmen, and not at the colonies and the colonists who were attempting to break from the Mother Country and justify and offer reasons for that break.
As the late Dr. Mel Bradford has expertly shown (in his volume Original Intentions) and Colgate University Professor Barry Alan Shain has convincingly documented in his massive and annotated study, The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, and Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congress (2014), the Founders recoiled and shrank back in horror that such words might be applied domestically to the several colonies and those institutions, laws and usages then in place. It was left to each new state to decide for itself about its domestic institutions, including the continuation (or not) of slavery, the establishment (or not) of a state religion and religious tests, the imposition (or not) of property qualifications on the “right” to vote, and whether to encourage (or not) “public education.” Indeed, this was the very reason for the adoption of both the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution, to ensure the protection of those inherent rights of the states and the citizenry. The historical fact is that inequality was enshrined in our constitutional system, and it was left up to the various states to decide what internal institutions and practices they would maintain. And this solution, which was agreed upon by all the representatives of the states who met in Philadelphia, served the country well until 1861.
The ideological assumption posited by the cultural Marxists and the implication parroted by far too many Republicans and so-called “conservatives,” is that the original American foundation was therefore, by definition, colored by varying degrees of racism. And once that ideological template is accepted, future argument—its limits and terms—are set, and it becomes only a matter of degree and whether the nation must be completely re-made (per the cultural Marxists), or, in the case of the Neocons, “reformed” in line with their (faulty) interpretation—and promise—of the Declaration.
This position makes the widely-accepted assumption that the enshrined “inequality” in our founding documents is equivalent to and a specific endorsement of “racism,” and that it is “race” that is the central, if not unique, key to all of subsequent American history.
I would submit that our ancestors viewed the term and the existence of “inequality” in a much broader and normative sense, reflecting their understanding of human nature, the laws of nature, and, indeed, of both Biblical teaching and their inheritance of English law. Certainly, race can be placed into that context; but it should also be noted that, historically, bondage of one person to another, or of a society composed of classes, did not necessarily imply universal white domination over or exploitation of blacks because they were blacks. Nearly all societies in Africa practiced and sanctified slavery from time immemorial, but black-on-black slavery, of one tribe of Africans over another. Who, then, is the “racist”?
Indeed, it can be argued that economic issues have been just as important, if not more so, in our history. And race has usually receded as a major concern when measured against nationally pressing or disastrous economic issues (e.g., the Great Depression), or the appeal to national solidarity and the defense of the homeland or family in times of war and conflict or national emergency. It was not just historians such as Charles Beard (in his influential An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, 1913) who eloquently expressed this view a century ago. More recent writers have taken issue, if implicitly, with the dominant Marxist historical school (e.g., Eric Foner) which insists that race and slavery are in essence the only considerations by which to evaluate our history.
Foner casts the War Between the States and Reconstruction in this context: the War was, simply stated, to free the slaves and “overturn racism,” a racism implicit in the American Founding and that must be defeated and erased by continuous—one could say, never ending—struggle. And Reconstruction was the—temporarily unsuccessful—attempt to realize the egalitarian meaning and results of that conflict. His guiding praxis, like that of the preponderance of present-day American historians, is characterized by a kind of historical reductionism, shaped by intolerant and dogmatic cultural Marxism. In fact, historians of the Marxist historical school are governed largely by their ideology and the supreme objective of not just re-writing and deconstructing American history, but erasing entire portions of it that don’t fit their preconceived narrative.
Any real dissent or questioning, albeit of the mildest and most respectful form, is forbidden. Thus such recent revisionist studies as William Marvel’s Mr. Lincoln Goes to War (2006), Thomas Fleming’s A Disease in the Public Mind (2013), and Philip Leigh’s Southern Reconstruction (2013), not to mention the scholarly volumes of Thomas diLorenzo—all of which deviate from the Marxist template on race and racism—are dismissed or ignored by mainstream historians.
It would be informative to discover how many of these non-Marxist titles find their way into modern college courses on the war and Reconstruction: not many, I suspect.
The cultural Marxist hyper-emphasis on race and racism now reaches into and pervades every aspect of our lives, dictating a rigid ideological orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that continues to metamorphosize and envelope every uttered word we speak or are allowed to speak.
All of which comes back to the essential point: until we openly reject the dominant cultural Marxist template and praxis concerning equality and race as the controlling forces both intellectually and practically in our society, this utter lunacy will continue—and our very rights and existence as a people will continue to disappear.