Letter: Martin’s column political correctness run amok

By R.E. Bumgardner

The Daily Advance

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It’s a shame that so many people, especially newspaper columnists, are willing to expose their ignorance when their published work contains opinions that are contrary to the truth.

Political correctness is not always correct nor is it always the truth. Rather it’s what the speaker (or writer) wants the truth to be.

Columnists, of all people, should know that. They should be certain of the accuracy of every statement they write and they should make no statement of which they are not sure of its accuracy. A column by D.G. Martin, published in The Daily Advance on July 8, is a prime example of a writer’s failure to do that. Possibly — or probably — Mr. Martin was influenced by the current fad for political correctness — he filled his column with examples of it.

It seems rather odd to me that some people are not offended by the name “Redskins,” and don’t know they’re supposed to be, until people who having nothing to gain or lose interfere. After all, how much does any nickname matter to a people who have been treated as the Native Americans have been treated by their government? They’ve been squeezed onto the smallest area of the poorest land in the whole country and treated like vermin living under almost unbearable conditions. Being offended by a nickname doesn’t make up for the massacre at Wounded Knee nor for Colonel John Chivington’s massacre of a whole village of unarmed people, men, women and children who had already surrendered to the authorities.

I think it’s much more important to work on the living conditions of Indians than it is to commiserate about whether or not a nickname is offensive to them. When their living conditions have been alleviated and they have a decent standard of living, then we can start to worry about what we call them.

Mr. Martin also mentioned the “Silent Sam” statute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saying, “...it glorifies the institution of slavery that the soldiers fought to preserve.” I find it difficult to believe that in this “age of enlightenment” Mr. Martin, or any rational person, still believes that lie, much less attempt to propagate it. Only about 20 percent of the people in the South ever owned slaves. Three of my ancestors fought in the Confederacy and none of them, nor about 99.9 percent of the other soldiers, would have risked their lives nor the welfare of their families, so that someone else could continue to own slaves.

As for the students at Washington and Lee University, if any of them had bothered to check they would have learned that General Robert E. Lee had freed all his slaves prior to the Civil War, and that he was firmly opposed to the institution of slavery. If those students are so greatly offended perhaps they would be happier if they chose to attend some other school — maybe one where the descendants of Northern slavers who got rich in the slave trade attend.

Mr. Martin wrote: “Most prominent white North Carolinians a hundred years ago would, by today’s standards, be judged racist.” I’m afraid Mr. Martin’s right about that. But what Mr. Martin didn’t say is that racism still exists, not just in North Carolina, but in every part of this country. It exists in the north, south, east and west, and among all people, black or white.

What I want to know is what Mr. Martin has against North Carolinians? And what does the removal of Charles B. Aycock’s name from a building at Duke University have to do with anything?

It seems that the people who know the least are the ones most likely to be biased and to pontificate about things of which they are ignorant. They would never bother or think it was necessary to check the accuracy of their beliefs. If we strip away the lies of political correctness and the biases and wilful ignorance, what we’ll have left is truth. The truths of the past cannot be changed or hidden by wishes, lies or bias.

R.E. BUMGARDNER

Elizabeth City

Comments

Robert E. Lee freed ...

the slaves of Arlington on December 29, 1862 because his father in law, George Washington Parke Custis stipulated that all the Arlington slaves should be freed upon his death ... or within five years otherwise. Lee kept them for the additional five years at Arlington and the Pamunkey River estates to improve his finances. The true fact is that Mr. Lee was a slave owner until he could no longer be a slaveowner. Mr. Lee fully participated in the institution on every level, including pursuit of fugitives. The efforts of his wife and daughter to alleviate slave suffering have been wrongly attributed to him by apologists.

The first shot of the war was fired upon Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861.

Our Confederate monuments mean one thing to some of the descendents of southern soldiers and something entirely different to the descendents of slaves. Likewise, the Confederate battle flag that has been widely adopted by white supremicists around the country who see it for what it was and remains today.

Southern soldiers did fight to preserve slavery. This was incorporated within the Confederate Constitution and troops that fought under that flag swore an oath to defend it, just as Union troops swore their own oaths to defend and preserve the Constitution that we all live under today. I agree that many fought for home and hearth against the "Union Invader." This does not insulate any of them from the taint of having fought to preserve slavery, which was the basis of their entire economy and the political cornerstone of their new nation. There is no argument that can be made to excuse, or even distance General Lee from his role as slaveowner or Southern soldier.

My own family had soldiers on both sides. That the war was fought is a tragedy, from which the South, and the nation as a whole, has yet to fully recover. I believe that the present poor economy of NE North Carolina stands as lasting witness to that tragedy today. I also believe that our continuing human and civil rights progress stands as the ultimate monument to the rightness of the American victory.

The word "Redskin" is offensive. Native Americans themselves say that they are offended by the word and we should listen to them. We've largely abandoned the word "Jap" in our vocabularies, yet "Redskin," a remnant of the same demonization of our enemies as the word "Jap," lives on. We've also largely eliminated the word "nigger" from polite conversation, but this is largely because our African American population now has the political power and will to stop it themselves. Not because whites had a change of heart. Native Americans do not yet share this position of strength so it behooves thinking people to support them. I do support them. The word "Redskin" should be relegated to the pages of history. We should be as surprised to hear or read that word as we are to see or hear the "N" word now. Eliminating this word is one step of many on the path to restoring the dignity of people that we have so terribly wronged. Of course this is my own modern sensibility speaking.

The monuments themselves remind us of the sensibilities of the people of those times when the monuments were created. Removing monuments now does not remove the history behind them, but does admit to the progress made by the descendents of those times.

Perhaps the thing that General Lee did best was to simply furl his battle flags when the fight was lost, and just go home as Mr. Lee. As time passes, it is right to consider the changing meanings of our monuments and to simply furl them when the time is right.

Respectfully Submitted,

Force 12

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