Yesterday’s post about slavery elicited very strong emotions from my readers. Emails, telephone calls and a couple of comments on the blog showed the displeasure of many readers. Like Donald Trump often does, today I’m doubling down. The point that I am making is that the question of slavery remains un-addressed in the United States. By question, I mean that slavery was central to the formation of the present day United States and that the end of the Civil War did not conclusively address the part slavery played to make America great. This is a fact that few U.S. citizens want to have a frank discussion about.
To prove my point, I asked the simple question of how many monuments to the losing end of the war can you think of, off the top of your head. Many of you jumped at the examples of Mexican monuments across the country. The argument being that México lost the war.
This fact precisely goes to my point.
Incidentally it goes to my arguments about immigration, but for now, let’s focus the Mexican monuments in the U.S. and their correlation to slavery. México, as a country lost the war, but the many generations of the Mexican identity and culture in the U.S. did not evaporate along with Mexico’s defeat.
Instead, Mexicanism has woven itself into the fabric of the United States. Tacos are as common place in the country as are hamburgers. The United States has the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world. Red, white and blue is interspersed with the green, white and red. It is common to see Mexican iconography across the country.
The reason is that generations of Mexicans were absorbed into the country once México lost almost half of its national territory. Spanish was and remains a part of the landscape. Absorption does not equal assimilation and that has led us to the current national dialog about nationalism and assimilation.
In other words, do the many generations of U.S. citizens that are culturally Mexican-centric have an equal voice on the national stage? Obviously, the answer to this question remains in turmoil because you have a country debating whether being a U.S. citizen requires being an assimilated citizen. Also, unanswered is how you define assimilated.
Clearly, the Mexican culture remains in the country because the question of whether to be a U.S. citizen requires shedding Mexicanism from oneself to be a citizen has yet to be resolved. Thus, although México lost the war, the culture was not eradicated from the country.
And this is where I am going to send many of you over the edge and probably enrage some of you as well.
Unlike México, which did not build the country on enslaving and forcibly bringing Africans to work as slaves, the United States used a slave-based economy to create the country that it is today. Therefore, a Pancho Villa museum does not glorify nor represent an individual whose purpose for fighting was to keep humans as slaves. A Villa museum represents a “bandit” to some and a patriot to others in the United States. Villa killed U.S. citizens but he did not do so to keep humans as slaves.
Robert E. Lee fought to keep people as slaves. The Confederacy, contrary to the fiction of state’s rights and other malarkey about freedoms was looking to form a country, The Confederate States of America around the notion that Africans were slaves necessary for the country’s economic might.
That is the unresolved question that many in the United States do not want to address because to do so would require some deep soul searching to justify individuals and a narrative that centers on keeping humans as slaves.
Most everyone would agree that a monument to Hitler is not only inappropriate but abhorrent as well. Not because Hitler waged war, but because Hitler murdered many under the illusion that some humans were worthier than others. Attach that same principal to Robert E. Lee and you will soon understand why many find monuments to him abhorrent.
That is the answer many want to avoid and the reason why there is turmoil around the statues today.