Let’s face it Confederate Heritage Month isn’t what it used to be. In years past the month was identified with the remembrance of all things Confederate, but this year that acknowledgment is being clouded and even challenged on a number of fronts. This is of course nothing new for people who have followed the cultural/political trends throughout the South since the 1970s. The demographic shifts have been quite profound and our state and local political bodies reflect groups whose pasts do not necessarily conform or reduce to a vision that celebrates white Southerners as understood during the four years of the Confederacy.
These shifts can be seen in the number of legislatures that have issued statements that express apologies or regrets surrounding a state’s involvement in introducing or perpetuating the institution of slavery and its Jim Crow descendant. Virginia has already done so along with Maryland while North Carolina is currently debating a similar bill. Over the past few weeks legislatures in Texas, Georgia, and even in the U.S. House of Representatives have either introduced bills or begun the discussion.
In the case of North Carolina and Georgia the debate over a slavery apology has accompanied one that would involve a formal declaration of April as Confederate Heritage and History Month. Here we find the clearest indication of the profound changes taking place throughout the South. Can anyone imagine the possibility of this type of compromise just 20-30 years ago? For some the situation is even more dire. Recently the mayor of New Castle, Indiana repealed a proclamation naming April Confederate Heritage Month just three days after authorizing it.
No doubt smaller counties throughout the country will have little difficulty authorizing proclamations, but the days of state proclamations may be drawing to a close. I’ve said before that there is nothing surprising about these changes. In fact, the very changes that we are witnessing today stem from the same dynamics that brought about the emphasis on a white Confederate past by the turn of the twentieth century and throughout much of the century to follow. Our state legislatures now reflect a wider range of their constituencies.
Is it any surprise that a past constructed by white Americans designed to reinforce a racial hierarchy would therefore be challenged and revised?