South­ern na­tion­al­ists fa­vor se­ces­sion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jay Reeves

BIRM­ING­HAM, ALA.» As 21st cen­tury ac­tivists seek to top­ple mon­u­ments to the 19th cen­tury Con­fed­er­ate re­bel­lion, some white South­ern­ers are again ad­vo­cat­ing for what the Con­fed­er­ates tried and failed to do: se­cede from the Union.

It’s not an easy ar­gu­ment to win, and it’s not clear how much sup­port the idea has: The lead­ing South­ern na­tion­al­ist group, the Alabama-based League of the South, has been mak­ing the same claim for more than two decades and still has an ad­dress in the U.S.A., not the C.S.A.

But the idea of a break-away South­ern na­tion per­sists.

The League of the South’s long­time pres­i­dent, re­tired univer­sity pro­fes­sor Michael Hill of Killen, Ala., posted a mes­sage in July that be­gan, “Fight or die white man” and went on to say South­ern na­tion­al­ists seek “noth­ing less than the com­plete re­con­quest and restora­tion of our pat­ri­mony — the whole, en­tire South.”

“And that means the South will once again be in name and in ac­tu­al­ity White Man’s Land. A place where we and our prog­eny can en­joy Chris­tian lib­erty and the fruits of our own la­bor, un­hin­dered by par­a­sit­i­cal ‘out groups,’” said Hill’s mes­sage, posted on the group’s Face­book page a day af­ter a rally in sup­port of a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia.

The group’s web­site says it is “wag­ing a war to win the minds and hearts of the South­ern peo­ple.”

While white-con­trolled gov­ern­ment is its goal, the group says in a state­ment of be­liefs that it of­fers “good will and co­op­er­a­tion to South­ern blacks in ar­eas where we can work to­gether as Chris­tians to make life bet­ter for all peo­ple in the South.”

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus, 55 per­cent of the na­tion’s black pop­u­la­tion lived in the South in 2010, and 105 South­ern coun­ties had a black pop­u­la­tion of 50 per­cent or higher.

Hill said they’re not ad­vo­cat­ing for a re­peat of a Civil War that claimed 620,000 lives or a re­turn to slav­ery, the lynch­pin of the South’s an­te­bel­lum econ­omy.

“We have no in­ter­est in go­ing back and recre­at­ing an un-recre­at­able past,” Hill said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “We are fu­ture ori­ented.”

The group has erected bill­boards that said “SE­CEDE” in sev­eral states, and it even has its own ban­ner — a black and white ver­sion of the fa­mil­iar Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag, mi­nus the stars.

Se­ces­sion also finds sup­port on some web­sites that sup­port white na­tion­al­ism, in­clud­ing Oc­ci­den­tal Dis­sent, run by a Hill as­so­ciate, and the openly racist, anti-Semitic Daily Stormer. Ex­trem­ist watch­dog Heidi Beirich said strict South­ern na­tion­al­ism seems to have been swept up into the larger white-power agenda in re­cent years.

“I think it’s mostly sub­sumed into the white na­tion­al­ist move­ment,” said Beirich, di­rec­tor of the In­tel­li­gence Project at the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter. “There might be a lit­tle South­ern soft­ness to it. But I can’t tell a whole lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the League and white na­tion­al­ism.”

Mean­while, crit­ics are howl­ing over the mere idea that HBO is con­sid­er­ing a dra­matic se­ries based on the idea that the South re­ally did se­cede again and slav­ery still ex­isted.

But se­ces­sion isn’t the sole prop­erty of South­ern white na­tion­al­ists.

A group that wants Cal­i­for­nia to se­cede from the United States is based mainly on lib­er­als want­ing to exit the United States be­cause of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion.

The ini­tia­tive would form a com­mis­sion to rec­om­mend av­enues for Cal­i­for­nia to pur­sue its in­de­pen­dence and delete part of the state con­sti­tu­tion that says it’s an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of the United States. The “Calexit” ini­tia­tive also would in­struct the gov­er­nor and con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to ne­go­ti­ate more au­ton­omy for Cal­i­for­nia.

Se­ces­sion also has been dis­cussed on and off for years by the far right in states in­clud­ing Texas, par­tic­u­larly when Barack Obama was pres­i­dent.

On­line, many South­ern na­tion­al­ists seem an­i­mated by drives to re­move Con­fed­er­ate memo­ri­als, as hap­pened in New Or­leans and is planned in Char­lottesville, Va. Not ev­ery­one who supports Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments wants to re­move the South from the United States once again. Some sup­port­ers of the Old South say they sim­ply want to honor ances­tors who wore the gray.

Steve Helber, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Po­lice of­fi­cers in Char­lottesville, Va., es­cort mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan past a large group of protesters dur­ing a KKK rally early last month.

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