Monday, April 06, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 5: God and white supremacy

Ian Millhiser writes about When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia Think Progress 02/26/2014. This has new immediate relevance with the right's new reliance on "religious freedom" pitches to justify discrimination. He talks about Mississippi's notoriously racist Senator Theodore Bilbo (1877–1947):

For Senator Bilbo, however, racism was more that just an ideology, it was a sincerely held religious belief. In a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo wrote that “[p]urity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Allowing “the blood of the races [to] mix,” according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the “Divine plan of God.” There “is every reason to believe that miscengenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God.”

Bilbo was one of the South’s most colorful racists, but he was hardly alone in his beliefs. As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds that “[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures.” This same rationale was later adopted by state supreme courts in Alabama, Indiana and Virginia to justify bans on interracial marriage, and by justices in Kentucky to support residential segregation and segregated colleges.

In 1901, Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended unequal public schooling for African Americans on the grounds that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks.” After the Supreme Court ordered public schools integrated in Brown v. Board of Education, many segregationists cited their own faith as justification for official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi’s governorship in a landslide in 1960 after claiming that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate floor.
Citing Millhiser's post, Joan Walsh writes that "the history of pro-slavery and anti-integration racists using the Bible to justify their racism [was] often in terms eerily similar to those used to defend 'religious freedom' laws today." (Indiana’s Mike Pence is starting to look like Lester Maddox — without the spine Salon 03/30/2015).

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