Friday, June 13, 2014

White Supremacy and the Curse of Ham

In The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World), Daniel Goldenberg writes "Genesis tells of Ham finding his father Noah drunk and uncovered in his tent. Ham informs his brothers Shem and Japheth. They, walking backward so as not to see their father's nakedness, cover Noah with a garment. After Noah awakes from his drunkenness, he curses—not Ham, and not himself—but Ham's son Canaan by pronouncing: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren" (see Genesis 9:20-27). There is no reference to dark skin, to any skin color, or to Africa, and Noah does not say the curse applies to Canaan's descendants. Yet this story, as it was amplified and changed in extrabiblical interpretations, became the ideological cornerstone used to justify the slavery of black Africans thousands of years afterwards."

Christopher Hill (England, 1660) quotes the use of the biblical name of "Ham" as derived from Arabic "Hamam" meaning "dark," "hot," or "burnt."  It was presumed that God had given Ham Africa as his portion of the world and his cursed descendents were to be forever slaves to other people (in 17th century England, of course, white Europeans). Thus, we have derived the "Curse of Ham," descendants of whom, are conveniently Africans.  Still, though, originally, the curse was laid on Canaan... and, originally, was not meant to devolve upon his descendants.  Daniel Goldenberg, a Jewish scholar who writes on the "Curse of Ham," finds this difficult to explain, actually... unless you treat the "Curse of Ham" as a recent political device to support African slavery. 

These points have been drawn upon in the 17th century Christian world as a reference for Ham's race, skin tone, and ultimate origin... because "Ham" is a term said to refer  to "dark," "hot," or "burnt."  However, the mis-application of the Arabic meaning of "Hamam" to the biblical story of "Ham/Canaan" most likely derived from Muslim occupation of Africa, prior to European occupation beginning in the 15th century. This loose literary coincidence has been used since then, most particularly by Mormons, to justify slavery and segregation.  Still, it isn't biblical... the mistaken comparison occurred  over a thousand years after the beginning of Christianity. 

This Ham=African slave idea has to do with the history and politics of capitalism, not the Bible.

Africa had become the source for a great system of laborers to the emerging system of Dutch/English capitalism that focused upon the lucrative Caribbean production of "White Gold," or sugar.  These fairly recent biblical interpretations have been used for centuries as a justification for slavery to produce a product that was so valuable that even God was said to ignore the plight of the African.  Thus, through post-Moorish Africa-influenced American interpretation of the biblical tale of "Ham," God appeared to endorse African slavery.  Not surprising that darker, apparently "burnt" Africans would be interpreted as descendents of Ham at the introduction of the common usage of Africans as slaves in the American West Indies... which, of course, led to the development of the American South. 

The 17th century began a biblical justification for slavery that became institutionalized before Carolina was founded in 1671, thus transferring the justification of use of the African as slave to traditional southern American agricultural society which fervently needed the labor, not so much for sugar, but for other lucrative crops such as rice and cotton.  It is no surprise that the African has traditionally been viewed in America as God's own choice for slave and the wealthy European plantation owner as his natural master... or white, of course, as the color of the supreme ruling class of America.

Daniel Goldenberg infers that this belief lasted well into the 20th century, hinting that it may have ended before the 21st.  Goldenberg, however, was being kind to Americans.  I am often shocked to hear this biblically-justified interpretation for white-supremacy in casual conversations all across America, but most often in the Deep South... TODAY, yesterday, in fact. They and their neighbors still see miscegenation or "mixing of the races" as an abomination before God, the biblical source for 1896's Plessy v. Ferguson (segregation)... and for their current political views... consistently in history, the Southern conservative point of view and, now, that of modern Republicans.  

"The Bible says that we're not supposed to mix the races," they said. And, of course, the unspoken belief is that God meant for whites only to rule.  The problem is that those who read the Bible assume also that they understand the intricacies of history... this interpreted passage of Genesis is indisputable, they still believe, because of the "historical" evidence.  They forget that history is also used as a political device... secondary, or historical interpretation (the versions that we read in most textbooks) often alters or revises history for political convenience... for instance, the false belief that Columbus discovered that the world was round or the retelling of history to support the Southern political device known as "the Lost Cause."  Easily debatable interpretations of the Bible are certainly not immune.  Thus was born the "Curse of Ham," a favorite political device of the South.

This Americanized "curse" is still very much alive.  Racism is still very much alive.  It is intimately a part of our very own culture from the beginning of West Indian capitalism in the mid-1600s, well before 1776 and since the beginning of the use of Africans as slaves in America and carried on by our Amero-Christian tradition to support white-supremacy, especially since the Civil War, especially since God's own "chosen" African slaves defied southern society and God's wishes to free themselves and even demand equality with their white masters.  What moxie!  What blasphemy!

Is it any wonder that President Obama (perceived as a product of miscegenation) receives the opposition that he does when the deepest feelings of our society are racially encoded by our own dysfunctional political-religious traditions... our fervent belief in white-supremacy, cursed Ham, not the originally-cursed Canaan, as "black" (African), and miscegenation as an abomination before God?

Yeah,we're that messed up.

The choice of Africans as slaves was never a desire or commandment from God himself, but a very human desire for money and has been used as justification for the capitalistic institution of business that brutally abused an entire people for purposes of profit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arming Against Tyranny? Or Blacks Gaining Power?

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence" and limited the applicability of the Second Amendment to the federal government.

But, why was it enacted? 1876 is a clue... near the end of Reconstruction... when a back-room deal was made for the White House that let the rebels (Confederates) go free.

"The Cruikshank ruling also allowed groups such as the Ku Klux Klan to flourish and continue to use paramilitary force to suppress black voting. As whites dominated the Southern legislatures, they turned a blind eye on the violence, and denied African Americans any right to bear arms by refusing to pass laws that would have granting them."

It's intent was not to arm for resistance against tyranny, but to arm against blacks.

The SCOTUS of 1876 was attempting to appease white voters. Why else would they consider the "right to bear arms" on a par with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" They were afraid that newly-freed blacks would try to seize power. Conservatives are afraid once again... after the election of the first African-American president. 

Remember that the SCOTUS recently found (all by themselves) that racism no longer exists in America!!  lol Coincidence? Nah... 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Quotes for the day...

"He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature." ~Socrates

"Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant." ~Epictitus

"The greatest wealth is to live content with little." ~Plato

"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." ~Jesus

All quotes promote a simple life, education, sharing and/or lack of riches.  These are NOT Republican pro-corporate, anti-equality themes, which are the antithesis of biblical teachings and aged wisdom.  Truly, Republicans are anti-democratic.

In other words, you can be Republican today, but you can't be truly christian, humane, or true to American principles at the same time.  For freedom should not be valued more than equality, money more than each other.  Indeed, the wisest human beings known said so...

Friday, May 9, 2014

End of the Civil War to Today... When North Carolina's Radical Racism Flourished!

New York Herald; Date: 01-11-1870; Volume: XXXV; Issue: 11; Page: 5

This is one of the worst headlines you could have read in 1870.  It's details explained quite horrifically, it was designed to provoke an emotional response.  33-year-old Martin VanBuren Blalock operated a grocery in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  He was one of many brothers and sisters born to Hartwell G. and Patsy Herndon Blalock of Orange County.  They lived on the "south side of the North Carolina railroad."  Martin entered the Confederate Army as a corporal in the 6th regiment from Hillsborough.  Before his discharge, he was bucked down to private and seldom received another mention.  He was no one special to the Confederacy before or after the war.

Martin was found brutally murdered in his grocery in December 1869, a "ghastly and inhuman spectacle" claimed the article.  There was a rope around his neck, which had been slashed and a pillowcase shoved in his mouth.  It all appeared rather uncoordinated, perhaps multiple attempts to kill him... or added "evidence" to increase the "ghastliness" of the crime and confuse the identity of the actual murderer.

Three black men were arrested.  Assuredly, there was evidence, money from Blalock's business and two confessions of the three black men.  The article read, "An inquest was held, before which a large number of witnesses were summoned, though unable to fasten guilt upon anybody, suspicion fell at once upon a negro named Bob Gunn, and two others, called respectively Young and Lutterloh."

There were many similar incidents and all of the "legal" attributes remained conveniently uncertain, the actual provenance of the overwhelming evidence unknown and unrequested because of the frightened excitement of the white community. The article continues, "Their guilt is now established, though arrested only on suspicion created by a strong chain of circumstances." Obviously, these three black men were tried and executed for the crime. It was, unfortunately, a common tale across the South after the war.

By chance, perhaps, though not likely, another article two months later tells of an ominous presence centered upon Orange and Alamance Counties.  A group of organized vigilantes that preyed on the "United States and the Negroes" and their allies.  These vigilantes killed even men of distinction, prominent liberal politicians of the state.  They were organized, intelligent, and composed of ex-Confederates. They were known as the "White Brotherhood" or "Ku Klux Klan."

Similar oft-used tactics of white supremacists since the Civil War tended to reduce the "traitorous Negro" population, as viewed by the white population of North Carolina.  These included framing blacks for crimes that they didn't commit and publicly hanging them. This may or not have happened with Martin Blalock, but his death late in 1869 coincides with the rise of the North Carolina KKK activity and the "open and shut" case against the three black men was probably too good to be true.

New York Herald; Date: 03-14-1870; Volume: XXXV; Issue: 73; Page: 10

Please note the opposition to the "United States government" or "anti-government" part of the article, a common conservative talking point today, just as it was yesterday... with these southern conservatives.

They were organized by one ex-Confederate, wounded in the face and who could speak but little and could not exercise his former career at the bar.  His latter days as the Secretary of State for North Carolina were effected from a wheelchair.  His name was William Laurence Saunders.

From the Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History:

"In 1922, the [University of North Carolina] named its new history department building for William L. Saunders to recognize his work as a compiler of historical documents. Saunders graduated from UNC in 1854 and then practiced law in Salisbury, North Carolina. During the Civil War, he served as a colonel and was wounded in two battles. In 1869-1870, he became known as the chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and Chapel Hill. When [conservative Southern] Democrats regained power in North Carolina, Saunders became Secretary of State and arranged for the publication of North Carolina’s colonial records in a series on which historians still rely. He served as a university trustee from 1874 until 1891."

It's surprising, yes,  that this man would continue to be revered as much as he was after his known association with a group responsible for untold murders.  

"Two Members of the Ku-Klux Klan in Their Disguises"

Times-Picayune; Date: 07-07-1870; Page: 6
         Kirk-Holden War ---->

Acts of violence were blamed on blacks, but everyone knew that they were actually the work of the Ku Klux Klan... including the federal government.

Capt. Samuel A'Court Ashe, a fellow Confederate officer and North Carolina lawyer-turned-historian, wrote the following about William L. Saunders:

  • During the exciting period of Reconstruction from 1867 to 1870, Colonel Saunders was deeply interested in public affairs.  In 1870, he contributed to the Wilmington Journal, of which Major Engelhard, his brother-in-law was editor, an article on the Kirk-Holden War that attracted wide attention.  It was regarded as the strongest and most perfect article published in the State, and although unsigned, it established for him an enviable reputation.
  • The Conservatives were successful at the election held in August, 1870, and obtained control of both houses of the Assembly. 
1870 was the first and only time that radical conservatives had control of both houses until 2012.  Their anti-government agenda was wide open and even the "progressive" elements in the state were harshly racist.  North Carolina elections for nearly 100 years involved two candidates from the same party... both conservative Southern Democrat and both firmly under white control.  Any notion of the then liberal "Republican" party of Lincoln (not the Republican party of today... a common misconception) was put aside.  

The federal government tried to fight back against this harshly Confederate "state's rights" agenda of vengeance.  In 1870 and 1871, the federal government instituted the Force Acts  and used them to prosecute Klan crimes.  They were criminal codes which protected blacks’ right to vote, to hold office, to serve on juries, and receive equal protection under the laws. The laws also allowed the federal government to intervene when states did not act. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. Afterwards, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts (see Wilmington Race Riot of 1898), started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks' voting and running the early liberal version of Lincoln Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877 when a backroom deal released the ultra-conservative and unrepentant South from federal Reconstruction policies.  They still fight against the federal government today.

It can be argued that the South never paid their dues for the insurrection against the government of the United States, an bloody massacre that cost over 600,000 human lives.  All of this began simply to preserve slavery or the "state's right" of slavery.  After the war, KKK activity was directed solely as retribution against blacks and their supporters for their betrayal of white southerners' previous "generosity." 

"Holden's Impeachment. Trial of the Governor of North Carolina-He is Found Guilty and Removed," Houston Daily Union; Date: 03-31-1871; Volume: III; Issue: 175; Page: [2]

William Holden, the governor who tried to end the violence was impeached by the KKK-supported North Carolina government and the acts continued.

On the 23rd of September 1872, the soon-to-be Secretary of State for North Carolina, William Laurence Saunders was summoned to appear before a Congressional Joint Select Committee of both houses inquiring of his involvement in these white-supremacist organizations.  This became the first use of the 5th amendment to avoid incrimination of oneself.

A partial transcription of this hearing follows:

In pursuance of said order, the said sub-committee met on the 23rd day of September, 1871 and one W. L. Saunders of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who had been duly subpoenaed as a witness to appear before the Joint Select Committee of the two houses of Congress, then appeared, and submitted to be examined as a witness, and was duly sworn by the chairman of the Joint Select Committee. In the examination of said witness, the following questions by the chairman, and answers by the witness, were elicited:

Question: The purpose of this committee is to inquire in relation to the execution of the laws, and the security of life, person, and property in the late insurrectionary states.  As bearing upon that question, we have been examining in regard to the existence of secret organizations in the State of North Carolina, particularly those which are alleged to have committed acts of violence.  Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of any secret political organization of that character in the State of North Carolina?

  • Answer: Well, sir, I decline to say whether or not I have been a member of any of the so-called Ku-Klux organizations, on the ground that I am not obliged to testify in a case wherein I may incriminate myself...

Question: Do you decline to answer the question of the ground that you cannot do so without [in]criminating yourself?  

  • Answer:  I decline to answer the question on the ground that if I testify in this case, it will furnish evidence which will make me amenable to the Laws of North Carolina, as declared by the judges of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Question:  Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the White Brotherhood?

  • Answer: Well, sir, I conceive that that question comes in the same category.  

Question:  Do you decline to answer that question?

  • Answer:  I decline to answer that question...

Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the Constitutional Union Guards?

  • Answer: To that I give the same answer.

Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the Invisible Empire?

  • Answer: I make the same answer as before.

Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of any of the organizations which are popularly known as the Ku-Klux organizations?

  • Answer: I make the same answer to all of these questions.


Question: Have you had any communication with persons who have stated to you their knowledge of such murders or such whippings in the County of Orange, in the State of North Carolina, or in any other part of the State of North Carolina?

  • Answer:  I have only one such conversation.

Question:  With whom?

  • Answer:  That I decline to answer.  

Question:  Where did he live...?

  • Answer: I decline...

Question: What position... did he occupy... ?

  • Answer: I decline...

Question: Was he a member of the legislature... ?

  • Answer: I decline... 

Question: Was he a member of the bar?

  • Answer: I decline...

Question:  Was he a leading man?

  • Answer: I decline... 

Question: Do you decline to give any information may lead to the identity of that person?

  • Answer: Yes, sir; That is the sum and substance of it.

Question: What was the offense... ?  Was it murder?

  • Answer: I decline...

Question: Was it whipping?

  • Answer: I decline... 


Question: Do you know Henry Ivy?

  • Answer: No, sir...

Question: Do you know Abraham or Abe Hedgepeth?

  • Answer: Yes, sir.  I know him.

Question: Do you know whether he is or is not, or has he at any time told you whether he is or is not, a member of any Ku-Klux organization?

  • Answer: I decline to answer.

This line of questioning continued, asking Saunders to identify Ivy, Hedgepeth, James Copeland, William Andrews, Jesse Morrow, the wheelwright Nat. Williams, Fletcher Freeland of Durham at a station of the North Carolina railroad, Samuel Johnson, William Minor, John Durham, F. N. Strudwick, John McCauley, A. P. Cates, J. Cooley, J. Carmichael, Dr. E. M. Holt, and a host of others... he refused every question.  He boldly refused, defying the federal government... eliciting great pride in his fellow North Carolinians... a pride that has lingered through the decades...

Edwin Michael Holt of Orange County mentioned above is of particular interest.  He was born 1807, married three times, lived variously in Orange and Alamance Counties and died in 1884.  The abstract for the Alamance Cotton Mill Records, 1839-1926 in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC states:

  • The Alamance Cotton Mill was established by Edwin Michael Holt and his brother-in-law, William A. Carrigan, in 1837, signalling the start of industrial development in Alamance County, N.C. The Alamance factory was located on Great Alamance Creek, site of Holt's father's grist mill. The plant was under Holt management for 89 years, during which time the Holt family controlled most of the county's cotton manufacture.
Edwin's son by his first marriage, Lawrence Shackleford Holt married in Alamance County and had a son named Erwin Allen Holt, who also has a collection available at the same archive.  This son carried on the proud North Carolina tradition of his grandfather.  

Erwin Allen Holt, textile executive from Burlington, was a member of an organization named the North Carolina Defender of States' Rights, a well-known white-supremacist and anti-government group.  His papers involve his "concerns about racial segregation, Jewish control of the federal government, strict interpretation of the Constitution, the Status of Forces Agreement, communism in the U.S., and Hawaiian statehood," among others. Included is correspondence about preventing racial integration, and broadsides, leaflets, and circulars issued by various right-wing organizations of which Holt was a member."  Much of the NC Defenders material consists of copies of letters from Sterling Rawlinson Booth, Jr., of Raleigh, and Earle Le Baron, faculty member of East Carolina College, to public officials, Holt, and the membership. Common topics are "liberals" at ECC and UNC, segregation, and Communism, common topics often heard today.

From letter of March 25, 1959 in Collection Number: 03551  - Erwin Allen Holt Papers, 1953-1961

 Defenders of States Rights, 1959 (Folder 20)

This organization was formed in reaction to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board decision that desegregated all aspects of society.  But, nothing could have been more defining an influence as the Civil Rights decision in 1964, which caused a huge migration of North Carolina conservatives over to the growing conservative Republican party that year.  The election maps show this metamorphosis:  

1954 pushed some southern conservative Democrats to go "undecided," but they all voted "Republican" in 1964.  This was the new brand of ultra-conservative, southern-fried Republican party, infused with the old Confederate ideology of "state's rights" and more fundamentalist Christianity.  The "Solid South" turned radical Republican or what is known as the "Tea-Party" today. North Carolina remained the ultra-conservative of the conservatives, Confederate to its core... of the eleven battleground states during the 2012 election, North Carolina is the only one that remained in support of the Republican candidate: Mitt Romney.  

This ultra-conservative behavior was this open and apparent in the state only one other time:  right before the Civil War.  Illustrating this is North Carolina's response to the secession crisis in 1860, they resisted it at first, and then poured more men into it than any other state once the Civil War was on!  North Carolinians apparently like to pause and think first, which may be the quality that eventually saves us.  Still, once the decision is finally made, watch out!  Certainly, this last election provided Rob Christensen, reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer and author of A Paradox of Tarheel Politics more fuel for his writing!  As the tagline for his book reads "How can a state be represented by Jesse Helms and John Edwards at the same time?"  Indeed!
One thing about North Carolina that will not change until the demographics force it... is this white-supremacism.  Many residents have fervently supported this since colonial days until the present day.  And recently, I've seen an increase in the open expression of it... namely in the use of that word that we can't even bring ourselves to say completely in print... "N------"!  It used to be avoided in public, but not so much lately.  And, I, a white guy, was asked by a conservative "Why don't I move to Chapel Hill with the rest of my kind," after he discovered that I was progressive.  lol  Bullying is back in force, but not quite as much as it was in 1870.  This, too will subside... the bluster will pass more quickly than when William L. Saunders created the White Brotherhood.  Progress will happen despite this hateful behavior.  The old racist guard is dying off.  Still, the General Assembly since 2012 has been trying very hard, as one writer put it in North Carolina Just Gave Millionaires a Tax Cut, Raised Taxes on the Poorest 900,000 Working Families, "The combined effects of those tax changes give poor North Carolinians some incentive to move out of the state, a population shift Gov. Pat McCrory (R) hopes to encourage."  Again, like during Reconstruction and 1898, North Carolina conservatives are attempting to run off the "undesirables."  It's not so bad, though... today's open internet discussions, instant exposure to criticism, make it more difficult to get away with murder or simply "plead the 5th!"  Radical racism is seeing it's final "Hoorah!" :)

Still, back in 1871, when more of the state supported him and criticism was largely confined to official channels, William L. Saunders was told that the 5th Amendment did not apply in Congressional hearings and he stubbornly still refused to answer, safe in his clique. 

Then, Saunders was arrested for contempt and asked another round of questions intimating that he was "held in high repute" as the leader of the White Brotherhood.  The federal committee knew this man's involvement... they simply wanted him to openly admit it.  Saunders declined to answer any of these questions, making it quite clear that he was the leader and was involved, however directly or indirectly in the murders of prominent politicians in the state.  He "declined to answer" the government's attempts to seek justice for the murdered men.  

New York Herald; Date: 09-24-1871; Page: 7
From H. G. Jones, 1994:
  • Whether or not he was, as J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton asserted, the head of the Invisible Empire in North Carolina, his complicity was indicated by his being summoned in 1871 before the congressional Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary State. Face-to-face with his antagonists, he repeatedly declined to answer questions concerning his relationship with the organizations. In the same year a letter from "the brotheren" warned that "bill sanders will swing."
At the end of his life, the inscription on his tombstone expressed the general feelings of the people of North Carolina about his anti-government views:  "Distinguished for wisdom, purity and courage -  For 20 years he exerted more Power in North Carolina than any other man - 'I decline to answer'."  Yep!  Between Saunders, Holt, Helms, and today's North Carolina General Assembly, the old Confederacy is still around... just goes by a different name these days.  In essence, conservatives never left nor relinquished control of their state since before the United States began!  As I said, a source of great pride for them. I still can't help but wonder if Martin Blalock refused to join the brotherhood... if that was the true nature of his "crime." 

William Lawrence Saunders SOLDIER-EDITOR-HISTORIAN-STATESMAN PATRIOT Col. 46 Regiment N. C. Troops Distinguished for wisdom, purity and courage For 20 years he exerted more Power in North Carolina than any other man "I decline to answer"

See also:  Colin Woodard's "Up in Arms" about Deep South conservative anti-government ideology and it's inherent violence.