Archive for November, 2013

The Master Mentality, Fear and…Trey Gowdy

November 8th, 2013 Comments off

Before the Civil War, armed white men on horseback formed “slave patrols” to search for, intercept and aprehend any slave found where they felt that slave did not belong. Any free-roaming slave was a potential danger, ready to foment insurrection, murdering their white masters in their beds, raping their white wives and sisters and daughters.

After the Civil War, those bands of armed men became “black patrols”; the blacks were now freemen, but were still seen  as naturally inferior, a threat to the white man. The black man had to be kept “in his place” by any means possible.

This did not end with the coming of Reconstruction; rather, those same vigilante bands were transformed into  “gun clubs,” performing essentially the same function: keeping the black man down. Wade Hampton’s Red Shirts were a politically connected outgrowth of the gun clubs, performing essentially the same functions. When Reconstruction law demanded the disbandment of the gun clubs, they immediately reformed “band clubs,” musical organizations: one such club proudly advertised its “three 24-pound flutes”.

Whites still felt it necessary to use physical force to “protect” the white way of life. Whites were fearful now that blacks would not only be violently viscious when allowed freedom of action; but blacks now threatened the whites’ economic security, as southern economic society had been decimated by the War. Blacks, formerly slaves, remained “the other” for the white man–particularly for the poor white man, and there were a great many of those. So a means had to be developed to keep this threat at bay.

So Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman ran fo the Governorship of Souith Carolina on a platform of keeping the black man down by legal methods. The result came to be known as Jim Crow.

In 1896, Tillman’s factotum in the State Senate, one Coleman “Coley” Livingston Blease, introduced into the South Carolina Legislature the first law demanding the segregation of blacks from whites on all public transportation.

Coley Blease went on to occupy Tillman’s seat in the office of Governor in 1911. While in office Blease made a point of praising lynching as a justifiable means of taking revenge justice.

In 1913 Blease appeared before the US Conference of Governors, and said: “Whenever the Constitution comes between me and the virtue of the white women of the South, I say to hell with the Constitution!” He never shrank from endorsing the vigilantism of lynching–though always condemning, with a wink and a nod, “the violence of a few.”

In 1929, this same Blease, now U.S. Senator, introduced a bill to produce registration and identification cards for all non-native-born person in the United States.  “A very dangerous bill,” according to The Nation magazine at the time, “…an infamous proposal, spelling police espionage and blackmail.”

Lynching, segregation, vigilantism–all are means of identifying “the other” and protecting oneself from the unknown, the feared.

Now comes Trey Gowdy, US Representative from South Carolina’s 4th District (Greenville/Spartanburg) introducing the SAFE Act — Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act– which essentially turns every local law enforcement agency into a vigilante posse, licensed to enforce national immigration laws and policy, in their own way and using such methods as they choose.

“The SAFE Act represents a common sense approach to the enforcement of our nation’s laws. Utilizing the law enforcement infrastructure existing in every state and community across this country to support enforcement efforts increases accountability and effectiveness, while using resources wisely,” says Gowdy, on his web site.

What this would do would be to encourage racial profiling to the extreme, creating a new class of people to be reviled and legally threatened, harrassed and intimidated.

It’s unfortunate that this law has already been approved and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.

While the Orwellian-named “SAFE Act” will probably never get past the Senate — so long as that body is controlled by the Democrats — it is chilling to consider that the same fears of “the Other” are even today being manifested, and from the same area of the country that brought us all the joys of Jim Crow.

Editorial Paragraphs,” The Nation, Vol CXXVIII, Feb. 13, 1929, New York, N.Y., pp175-176.
The Governorship of Coleman Livingston Blease of South Carolina, 1911-1915, by Ronald Dantan Burnside. Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University, 1963.
“The Appeal of Cole Blease of South Carolina:Race, Class and Sex in the New South by Bryant Simon, in The Journal of Southern History, Vol 62, No.1 (Feb. 1996), pp 57-86.
Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Leman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.


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