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The Lost Cause and the Great Reawakening of Racism in the Republican Party

The great reawakening and rise of racism in the modern Republican Party has its roots in the myth of the “Lost Cause.” The myth is alive and well and is seen in the use of confederate symbols and rhetoric as tools of 21st century oppression.  


The Lost Cause allowed the defeated Confederacy to create a false narrative that justified succession. The Lost Cause myth maintains that succession had nothing to do with slavery. Southern states seceded to protect their rights, their homes, and to reject a tyrannical government in the North.[1]


The Lost Cause portrays slavery as a positive good, that slaves were somehow better off. Benevolent masters and happy slaves were fundamental to Lost Cause mythology.[2] We see this insidious narrative play out in Republican controlled states.


Florida teaching standards promote the benefits of slavery to the enslaved people because it taught useful skills.[3],[4] The Texas State Board of Education proposed that slavery should be taught as “involuntary relocation” in second grade social studies.[5]


Confederate soldiers were idealized as heroes. Gallant defenders of the southern way of life. Robert E. Lee is portrayed as the ultimate Christian soldier becoming the most important symbol of the Lost Cause.


A school board in rural Virginia recently voted to reinstate the names of Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Turner Ashby and Robert E. Lee for two schools (Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee elementary school).[6] This comes four years after the names had been removed, making it the first in the nation to reverse course after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.


Although Shenandoah County is first to restore Confederate-era names it will likely not be the last. The move appears to follow a larger trend of reversing course after the racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd.[7] 


Republican candidates and elected officials seek to normalize racist tropes.[8] The Great Replacement Theory. Re-imagining slavery. Anti-white racism. All represent the doctrine of the Republican Party.


We cannot accept Republican racism as the new normal. It is an ugly stain on the fabric of our democracy.










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