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The Civil War Sesquicentennial
Reunification, Reconstruction, and Regret
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  • wigwag

    For the smartest discussion of contemporary race relations in the United States read Shelby Steele’s extraordinary new book, “Shame:

    • f1b0nacc1

      Thank you for sharing both the book reference (I just finished downloading it!), and the very moving account of your meeting with Senator Scott.
      I have always felt that Lee was vastly overrated as a general, but vastly underrated as a man. That quote only confirms my belief…

      • wigwag

        I really hope that you enjoy the book and find it as provocative as I did. It is sad and inspiring at the same time. I have tremendous respect for black conservatives even when I don’t agree with them. I think back on the Clarence Thomas hearings from a few decades back and regret how shallow I was in concluding that Thomas was some type of terrible guy. In retrospect, I think he’ actually quite heroic even though I don’t necessarily buy into his judicial philosophy.

        Steele is smarter, more insightful and more erudite than 99 percent of the professors passing themselves off as intellectually respectable on your average ivy league campus; yet his views are regularly excoriated by the left. Whatever one thinks of the recommendations of black conservatives like Steele, it is abundantly obvious that many (not all) of the Great Society programs are failing to make things better for black Americans and in some cases are making things much worse. Nevertheless, leftist intellectuals insist on doubling down on programs already proven as failures.

        Steele suggests that the real aim of these programs is to assuage liberal guilt not to help black Americans. The culture of dependency they foster has made it difficult if not impossible for black Americans to compete.

        I admire Shelby Steele just as I admire Tim Scott. You don’t have to agree with everything they believe to conclude that they are courageous.

        Unlike with so many politicians and intellectuals, with Scott and Steele, what you see is what you get,

        • Anthony

          Shelby is both a fine man and a fine intellect (as well as his brother Claude) who continues to make a contribution to country. But as I wrote in City Journal, many find Shelby’s narratives “cognitively reassuring”. In Shelby Steele you have a black American born and bred in the north. In Tim Scott (Justice Thomas also by the way), you have a black American born and bred in the south. Make of it what you will – All of Us or None.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Precisely so. I find Justice Thomas’ judicial philosophy more appealing than you do, but irrespective of that, I admire him as a person. I have had the great pleasure of meeting Steele several times, and was impressed with him not only as a thinker, but as a person…a man of character, of great intellectual generosity, and profound decency. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I can respect him and respect his understanding of the source of our differences.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We have been reminded more recently in other lands that military actions cannot and do not necessarily solve local political problems.

  • Anthony

    There is one huge question that is not often asked, but should be. Why didn’t the north invite freed slaves to leave the south, where they could never be truly safe due to the fact that they were surrounded by hostile southern whites, and move to the north, or perhaps into the new lands west of the Mississippi? Could it be that many northern whites at that time were also totally hostile to blacks, and were only willing to help them if they stayed in the south? Maybe northern whites wanted all of the land in the west for themselves.

    • Anthony

      The history of racial caste in the United States did not end with the Civil War (sesquincentennial) primarily because during the four centuries in which slavery flourished the idea of “race” flourished as well; the concept of racial difference (specifically the idea of white supremacy) took root. An idea akin to something like a religion became part of social order and probably conveniently precluded your query and counter factual above. Racial division was a consequence not a precondition of slavery and Civil War did not change formulation (although it could have).

      Today Anthony, we continue to avoid the fork in the road and settle for rationalizations – “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” (Martin Luther King). All of Us or None.

  • Luke Phillips

    I must disagree just a little bit; didn’t the North try to impose a social revolution on the South in the years after the Civil War, called the Radical Reconstruction, made possible by Lincoln’s death and the North’s subsequent throttling of the South? Everything I’ve ever read has suggested that, had Lincoln lived and moderated the North’s reconstruction attempts and been generally more conciliatory, the South would have been more quickly re-integrated into the American body politick. That quicker re-integration would have given the North more leverage over the Southern states in terms of voting rights protection for Southern blacks, etc, rather than having the South continue to believe that they themselves were the oppressed.

    I am no historian, however, and I respect Professor Mead’s analysis that a more radical route than Reconstruction could have transformed Southern society in a better way. I am just not convinced of it.

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