Sunday, June 12, 2011

a US Civil War observation for Antiracists

Historian James M. McPherson and the cause of intellectual integrity:
Professor McPherson forthrightly rejects the method that looks at history through the prism of race. Even while commenting very favorably on Joseph T. Glatthaar's Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers (1990), McPherson scolds the author for succumbing “to the fashionable practice of condemning all whites as racists.” Glatthaar had written that “Prior to the war virtually all of them [white officers in black regiments] held powerful racial prejudices.” McPherson responds: “Powerful racial prejudices? That was not true of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, or Norwood P. Hallowell, or George T. Garrison, or many other abolitionists and sons of abolitionists who became officers in black regiments.”

McPherson continues: “Indeed, the contrary was true; they had spent much of their lives fighting the race prejudice endemic in American society, sometimes at the risk of their careers and even their lives.... Perhaps by modern absolutist standards of racial egalitarianism (which few could meet today), these men harbored some mildly racist or paternalistic feelings. But to call these ‘powerful racial prejudices' is to indulge in what William Manchester has called ‘generational chauvinism—judging past eras by the standard of the present.'”