Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scientists Finally Disprove the Existence of "Race"

In a landmark discovery, an international team of scientists have determined that humans cannot be accurately classified according to their “race” (referred to as “species” in the animal kingdom), and that human beings are physically, mentally, spiritually and culturally identical. “We mistakenly believed that humans could be classified according to their species, which we believed was related to the location of their forepeople (‘forefathers’ having been recently stricken from the dictionary as ‘sexist’) on the planet,” said Dr. Enrico Maggioletti, a former “italian,” who is now referred to as “a person who descended from people who lived in the area of Europe known as Italy.”

While it is true that people are generally believed to have descended from humans that evolved on different parts of the planet, scientists now refute the idea that these differing environments had anything to do the development of distinct races. “For years, we referred to Asiatic peoples, African peoples, European peoples, Arabic peoples, et cetera,” said Dr. Maggioletti. “Now we have learned that any perceived differences between what we thought of as races of peoples is exactly that: a subjective perception that exists in the mind of the beholder, without any scientific basis whatsoever.”

“As far as science is concerned, a ‘race’ is a contest of speed that may be held between a wide variety of animals, including humans,” Dr. Maggioletti said. His colleague and associate, Dr. Pearl Ng, added, “science has finally caught up with increasingly popular notion that differentiating humans according to shared physical characteristics and cultural practices is simply wrong. The bottom line is that we are all humans, to a degree, and there is no scientific difference in our physical or mental makeups.”

To illustrate the point, Dr. Ng said, “If somebody makes the observation that many people from the area known as Vietnam (formerly known as “vietnamese”) have high cheekbones, and assume that this similarity is a manifestation what we formally thought of ‘racial attributes,’ they would be incorrect in making that assumption. The perception that people from the area of Vietnam share such a trait is purely subjective–a form of ‘othering’ (formerly known as ‘racism’):

“There’s you, and there’s the ‘others,’” said Dr. Ng. “You may think your skin is lighter or darker than ‘others,’ but that is a purely subjective observation, the same way some people believe that certain shades of red are actually orange, and vice versa.”

The discovery means that some groups that have historically claimed superiority in a given field due to what was believed to be genetic predisposition toward a certain physical characteristic–muscle mass, for example, or height–will need to, just like everybody else, attribute such perceived shared characteristics to pure coincidence. The same applies to what some have perceived to be shared mental predispositions based on cultural and environmental differences. For example, people that have descended from the area known as Germany have been mistakenly assumed to have superior engineering abilities, as opposed to people that have descended from the area known as Hawaii. The fact that BMWs weren’t invented in Hawaii is pure coincidence, and observing such is now considered a form of “othering.”

In another example, the scientists wrote that it is now considered “othering” to label certain types of food as Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Mexican or what have you. Instead, the correct way to refer to foods that share similar characteristics based on their location would be “food commonly found in China and traditionally prepared by people from that area and markedly different than food prepared by people from Kansas.” While this distinction may prove difficult to use as an identifier, particularly on a restaurant sign, scientists and sociologists suggest that "Food Traditionally Prepared in China" is far preferable to "Chinese Food."

For those that might observe that this breakthrough discovery is yet another way of saying “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” scientists suggest that it would be better to perceive the discovery as indicating that Kansas, any perceived characteristics shared by the people of that area, are purely subjective figments of the imagination. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hard Times for Johnny Reb

My namesake, General J.E.B. Stuart
Recent events have got me feeling all stirred up about my Southern heritage, my name (for J.E.B. Stuart, a Confederate cavalry general) and my Rebel ancestors. My mother's grandfather was a Yankee soldier from Springfield, Illinois. My father's grandfather was Rebel soldier from Virginia who rode with Stonewall Jackson's Sharpshooters Brigade. My father's mother, born in Laurel Hill on a plantation built in 1833, had many Rebels in her lineage. She named me Jeb (a common nickname for John, my given name, in the South). When I was little I had a Johnny Reb uniform and, though I grew up in Kentfield, CA, I was always encouraged to stand up for the Rebels. My father referred to my wailing as a baby as the "Rebel yell."

These days, such bloodlines make a guy wanna go hide under a rock.

Current popular sentiment suggests that white Southerners that supported the rebellion and secession of Southern states in 1861, regardless of their station in life, were evil racists, murderers, rapists - haters of the worst kind, wantonly killing off blacks - slaves and freejacks - and rounding them up in death camps as if they were Native Americans. Call it Manifest Destiny, Southern style. Meanwhile, while the slave trade was made illegal nationwide in 1808, it wasn't until 1820 and the Missouri Compromise that slavery was outlawed north of the Mason Dixon line. The US government voted against emancipating the slaves as late as 1831. But are the ancestors of the colonists, or all of the American flags from 1776 to the Emancipation Proclamation vilified for representing white supremacy? Do the symbols of the U.S. westward expansion represent genocide?

Of course the northern states, particularly the industrial states of the Northeast, did not rely on the cheap (not free) labor slavery had been providing to the South since the first slaves arrived in 1609. But the devil is in the details, right? Very few of the voices that have cried out for the vilification of the South and the symbols of the Confederacy do so in a historical context. Rather, it is the misappropriation of the flag and other symbols of the Rebellion since the Civil Rights movement of 1965 by hate groups like the KKK and other white supremacists–that has fomented the current kneejerk national reaction to symbols of the Confederacy. Is the crucifix to be removed as a symbol of Christianity because it has been misappropriated by the KKK?   

Such popular misconceptions make life tricky for those with  Confederate and Antebellum-era ancestors. To live guilt-free, not only must one repudiate, disown and otherwise vaporize their Rebel heritage, but they must undergo a genetic transfusion to rid themselves of the vestiges of the backward thinking that poisoned their ancestors. 

 So I've been trying to better understand what led to slavery in America in the first place. Not so much why the South objected to the Federal government "freeing" what had been considered legal property throughout the country just 30 years prior–I understand the reasons for the rebellion and secession–but why slavery was legal in all 13 colonies and the subsequent United States to begin with.

All these years I was under the impression that the Atlantic slave traders would park in some African
A slave trader barters with the African slave owner
port, saunter into the jungle with their guns and round up the peaceful natives, clamp them in irons and ship them across the sea. Imagine my surprise to learn that the Africans sold other Africans– people who were already slaves, and had become so as part of the eternal tribal power struggles–to the slave traders. It's right there in WikiPedia's "history of the slave trade":

 "Slavery in Africa has a long history, within Africa since before historical records, but intensifying with the Arab slave trade and again with the trans-Atlantic slave trade; the demand for slaves created an entire series of kingdoms (such as the Ashanti Empire) which existed in a state of perpetual warfare in order to generate the prisoners of war necessary for the lucrative export of slaves. These patterns have persisted into the colonial period during the late 19th and early 20th century. Although the colonial authorities attempted to suppress slavery from about 1900, this had very limited success, and after decolonization, slavery continues in many parts of Africa even though being technically illegal."

While I wouldn't term this as a relief, the fact that blacks were selling blacks to whites, Arabs, Persians etc.–and are selling Africans to other Africans to this day–puts things in a little different perspective. To understand that the Africans that were sold to the colonials and subsequent generations were already slaves and, had they stayed in Africa, would have remained slaves far past 1863 and the Emancipation Proclamation, puts a little different spin on the diaspora.

While this in no way justifies the Southern planter elite's position on keeping their slaves, the lifeblood of their businesses, (and whom one might suppose were far better off as slaves in Louisiana than they would have been as slaves in the Ashanti Kingdom) it takes a little weight off of the unfortunate fate of having a Southern heritage. Not that I expect historical fact to have any influence on the current debate, any more than I would expect the U.S. to ban American flags of the 19th century for representing the extermination of the Native Americans.


In other news, did you hear Billy Idol's classic "Rebel Yell" and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" has been outlawed on all national public radio stations?

I found the following information about the Civil War interesting and enlightening.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Today's Civil War "History" More Revisionism Than Fact

by Mark Behrend

I received a flier recently on the expected media attacks on Confederate heritage, I'd like to briefly share an argument I've found very useful in convincing critics that today's "politically correct" version of "Civil War" history is more revisionism than fact.

Rather than defending the Confederacy directly, I stress that the events of 150 years ago must be seen in the context of their own times, and that the moral failings of the South are more than equalled by the failings and hypocrisy of the North.  To make these points, I simply state 10 facts.  You're probably well aware of all of them, but the average American finds most of them astonishing:

1) Neither secession nor war would have occurred over slavery alone.  As many of Lincoln's pronouncements make clear, the ONLY issue for the Union was union itself.  For the South, slavery was well down a list of grievances that included the National Banking Act, a growing loss of influence in Congress, and the subsequent federal economic and trade policies that increasingly favored Northern industries over Southern agriculture.  In a nutshell, the issue was whether states that freely enter a federation have the right to freely leave it, when it doesn't work out.  As the next three points bear out, the North blundered into war by mistakenly believing slavery was the bigger issue for the South.

2)  During the lull between secession and war, Congress passed a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing the South the right to maintain slavery in perpetuity.  The amendment, of course, was never ratified, due to the outbreak of war.

3)  After hostilities began, Congress made a similarly ignorant attempt to reverse events, with a resolution declaring that the war aims of the North did not include the alteration or abolition of any Southern institution -- obviously meaning slavery.

4)  If the South's main concern was slavery, why did neither of the above end the conflict and restore the Union?

5)  If Lincoln and the Union had gone to war to free the slaves, it would have had a hard time explaining why it financed the war partly from the proceeds of real estate worked by slaves, and why officers from slave states were allowed to bring up to 3 slaves onto Union military posts as personal servants.  

6)  Slavery was a pivotal issue for no more than 4 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina), and arguably for only the first two.  Four others (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) only seceded AFTER the outbreak of hostilities, and then only to keep their sons from being forced to fight fellow Southerners.  Since Virginia would bear the war's greatest costs (a geographical certainty its leaders were aware of from the beginning), this clearly demonstrates that the intangible of "Southern identity" was of infinitely greater concern to the South than slavery.

7)  American attitudes and policies on race in 1860 bore no resemblance to today's, and differed widely across both North and South.  For example, Lincoln openly expressed doubts that blacks and whites could ever live together amicably...  During the war, New Yorkers rioted against conscription, targeting blacks...  A third of blacks in Louisiana were already free before the war, with a thriving black professional and artistic class in New Orleans -- a cultural treasure that was destroyed by war and Reconstruction...  In neighboring Arkansas, on the other hand, it was not legallly possible to be black and free...  A generation before the war, a bill to abolish slavery in Virginia came within 3 votes of becoming law...  At least 7 Union states (Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois, and Indiana) had deeply divided loyalties during the war, with the first 5 of them still practicing slavery until AFTER the war...  One of the biggest slaveholding families in the country, North or South, was a black family in New Orleans, which owned 500 slaves.

8)  Blacks fought for both the Union AND the Confederacy.  Though their numbers were far greater in the Union Army, they were paid at only half the rate of white troops.  Blacks and whites in the Confederate forces, however, were paid equally.

9)  Both North and South had a policy of taking no black prisoners on their own soil.  Both sides summarily executed black soldiers caught on their territory.

10)  Though our schools treat the Emancipation Proclamation as if it were Lincoln's intent from the beginning, he sat on it until well after the midpoint of the war.  It was finally issued at the insistence of U.S. Grant, who believed it would remotivate an army and a nation that were losing their will to fight.  And, in the ultimate act of hypocrisy, it applied only to Southern states.  Apparently, slavery was a moral abomination in the South, but not the North.     

As for celebrating our Confederate heritage, I cite 4 points ALL Americans should be proud of:  We had the first ironclad warship, the first submarine, the first use of aircraft in wartime, and some of the finest military commanders in American history -- my favorites being Forrest, Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, and Lee (in that order!).