President Trump’s ‘White Blindness’

Exclusive: By defending “beautiful” Confederate statues, President Trump shows how little he understands about the evils of slavery and the cruelty on lynchings and segregation, but he is by no means alone, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The blindness of President Trump regarding racial bigotry – and indeed that of many white Americans – is that whatever they say to the contrary, they really don’t appreciate the evils of slavery or the ensuing century of lynchings and segregation.

A photograph showing the whipping scars on the back of an African-American slave.

And, much of that ignorance comes from the systematic rationalizing and romanticizing of the ante-bellum South while shielding from criticism many of slavery’s historical apologists, including both Confederate “heroes” and earlier icons such as Thomas Jefferson who became a staunch advocate for expanding slavery all the better to increase his financial bottom line.

Although I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 1960s, our “history” textbooks could easily have passed muster in the Deep South. They treated slavery as an unfortunate feature of America’s past but not really all that bad, an institution in which most slave owners were kindly masters but a few employed cruel overseers who committed some isolated abuses like whippings.

And, if that recollection of my grade-school experience sounds hard to believe, just watch the 1939 movie classic “Gone with the Wind,” which presents Tara’s plantation slaves as mostly content with their enslavement and loyal to their masters. That was pretty much what Americans were taught for generations and explains why the 1977 TV miniseries “Roots” was such a shocking event, because it showed the systematic cruelty of slavery from the perspective of the slaves.

By 1980, the decades-old “conventional wisdom” about the quaint-and-misguided-but-mostly-okay institution of human bondage was shattered not only by TV’s dramatic portrayal of slavery but also by sound historic scholarship, which gained greater attention due to the Civil Rights Movement and growing popular resistance to “patriotic”…

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