Juneteenth not only celebrates the end of almost 250 years of slavery for black objects – a brutal institution of forced labour, sexual abuse and exploitation and wanton violence.
The day also celebrates the defeat of the Confederacy, a treacherous entity based on core beliefs of white supremacy and eternal black subjugation, as famously explained by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.
For that reason, given the hilarity of the occasion, it’s also important to recognize that while the Confederacy may be long dead, Confederate ideology is alive and well — particularly among Republican believers.
America as a whole has a white racism problem, but perhaps nowhere is it more pronounced than on the political right, where openly revanchist, authoritarian, and anti-democratic powers consistently prove they are motivated by white racist resentment and revenge. In short, the GOP is the neo-confederate party.
This is neither hysteria nor exaggeration — Republicans’ neo-Confederate agenda is often frank and clear. With the exception of Virginia, the so-called “Heritage Laws,” which long prevented the removal or alteration of Confederate monuments in seven states, were not enacted by Republican legislatures until the 2000s (when they sensed growing opposition to the statues ). and they’re still fighting to stay in the books.
Florida tried to codify a similar law this year, and although it failed in committee, Republican lawmakers have vowed to try again in the 2024 legislative session. In Mississippi, the blackest state in the country, Republican governor Tate Reeves once again proclaimed the Confederate month of April this year. (Ten southern states still have holidays celebrating the Confederacy; Alabama and Mississippi actually commemorate Martin Luther King Day on the same day they commemorate Robert E. Lee.)
“Under the guise of stopping voter fraud, the neoconfederates are employing the same tactics as ever.”
April was also designated Republican History Month by Republicans in Congress in Tennessee, whose celebrations appear to have included the expulsion of two elected black congressmen in a show of utter contempt and disregard for democracy by white rulers.
Nationally, Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley both voted against a proposal to rename bases after Confederates who led attacks against the country’s armed forces.
Just days ago, in their respective speeches at the North Carolina Republican Convention during the presidential campaign, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to rename the newly baptized Fort Liberty Army base back to its old name, Fort Bragg. It doesn’t matter that General Braxton Bragg was the biggest traitor loser in an entire insurgent nation of traitor losers. (Bragg is regarded as perhaps the most incompetent and inefficient general in the Confederacy, of whom one of his own men said “not a single soldier in the entire army was ever loved or respected.”)
In 2023, restoring the Confederate name shouldn’t be on the priority list of presidential candidates. But both DeSantis and Pence recognize that the neoconfederates make up much of their base.
For this reason, Republicans are currently preoccupied with the “Lost Cause” myth-making that, according to scholar Mary Anne Franks, “needs to whitewash the role of slavery in American history; selective advocacy of states’ rights; and promoting racial, gender, and religious supremacy.” Just as the United Daughters of the Confederacy have banned the teaching of authentic history and banned books that defied the ahistoricism of “Lost Cause,” white conservatives across the country are currently waging censorship campaigns against the historical Accuracy with the same end goal of maintaining a white supremacist national memory.
A UCLA Law School study found that between January 2021 and December 2022, lawmakers at all levels of jurisdiction proposed 560 measures against what the right has incorrectly labeled “critical race theory,” of which about 240 were passed. Like their predecessors, the conservatives who campaign for book bans and removals are all too willing to use white terror, harassment and violence, including threatening teachers, administrators and librarians, and not infrequently align themselves with far-right groups like the Proud Boys together.
When Gov. DeSantis’ administration announced that a high school advanced course in African American Studies had “considerably little educational value,” he assured his status-concerned supporters that white power was still strong and that he was prepared to do so do. He also signaled approval of the likes of the Alabama mother, who recently told a local outlet that “too much black history” is already being taught.
There is also broad GOP opposition to black suffrage.
Conservative efforts to suppress black suffrage, one of the fundamental rights of American citizenship, have a long history, from deadly violence against black people at the ballot box during Reconstruction to white terror campaigns against black people trying to vote during Jim Crow.
The neo-Confederate GOP has undermined black suffrage through repressive laws — voter ID laws, limited early voting and the closure of 1,700 polling stations in non-white neighborhoods. One Arizona Republican even proposed tests for voters, but refrained from proposing poll taxes.
It’s no coincidence that allegations of invalid votes in the 2020 election focused on those cast in the black-majority cities of Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. It was primarily anger at black political power that prompted white conservatives to show up armed at polling centers. Neo-Confederate politicians have called for more “election watchers,” and extremists have represented themselves and monitored polling stations.
It was raging anger at black and other non-white voters that prompted violent hordes of white supremacist insurgents to scale the walls, smash windows and smear various bodily fluids throughout the US Capitol. Under the guise of stopping voter fraud, the neoconfederates are employing the same tactics as ever.
And speaking of the Capitol riot, there is an open right-wing support for white supremacist vigilante justice, demonstrated not only by calling Capitol terrorists “patriots” but also by worshiping and fundraising for them murderous figures from Kyle Rittenhouse to Daniel Penny whose only claims are famous for their willingness to kill black people and anyone allegedly associated with them. Neo-Confederates have always used law-and-order rhetoric as a sign of racial order, in which white lawlessness is justified and black protest criminalized.
And we are witnessing once again the invocation of “state rights” on issues from marriage equality to immigration to abortion. Perhaps the least discussed (but most consequential) case currently before the Supreme Court Moore vs. Harperwhich would give essentially unchecked power to the bipartisan, malevolent red state legislatures, that is, the majorityto reject election results until the presidential election. These are the very real extremes we face as the Neo-Confederates attempt to turn back time.
This is frightening, and the possible consequences are similar to those seen after Reconstruction fell.
Christopher Rufo, the right-wing propagandist who proudly admits cynically misinterpreting critical racism to stoke white conservative outrage, and Matt Walsh, a right-wing commentator whose obsession with trans people calls for therapeutic intervention, aren’t just online-only guys who peddle CRT misinformation and anti-trans Spreading paranoia, they are also active participants in a movement to erase black people from history, trans people from the public eye, and women from all walks of life outside the home.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) may be seen as a nutcase who has encouraged secessionist sentiment on multiple occasions, but so-called “reasonable” Republicans, including former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, have done the same.
The rise of the neo-Confederate GOP is very real – and players from DeSantis to Green, from Rufo to Walsh – with their calls for “tradition” that really mean maintaining racial and gender orders – may not always form a step in step, but they do have their eyes on the same regressive endpoint.
Juneteenth—whom we should never forget, has been labeled “divisive” and reverse racist by numerous elected Republicans—is a reminder that the liberation struggle never ends. Especially when the Republican Party, a neo-Confederate party in name, hopes to free so many of us.