Leonce Gaiter

Leonce Gaiter
California, USA
March 24
Leonce Gaiter’s work on social and cultural issues has appeared in numerous publications, from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times magazine. His historical novel, "I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang" [buckrampage.com] has an official publication date of September 1, 2011. His noir thriller "Bourbon Street" was published by Carroll & Graf. Additional fiction and non-fiction writings are available on his site: www.leoncegaiter.com.

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 6, 2010 6:53PM

Bob McDonnell Blows the Racist Dog Whistle Really Loud

Rate: 23 Flag

Think of it a “Black History Month” for proto-Klansmen.  It’s like a Freshman Young Republican hanging a white hooded effigy from the second story dorm room window as a conservative career builder.  

Let’s consider: We are regularly invited to “celebrate” black history month (absurd as the idea may be in its conception and execution).  Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell did not ask his state’s citizens to “celebrate” “Confederate History Month.”  He simply “declared” its existence, leaving the celebratory aspect aspirated to the level of the dog whistle (an apt metaphor considering his audience).

If McDonnell had not wanted to be incendiary, if he had not wanted to suggest sympathy with the ideals of the confederacy, if he had not wanted to evoke an opposition to the idea of celebrating black equality, if he had, as stated, simply wanted to ensure that “a defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten,“  he could have proclaimed “Civil War History Month,” and achieved that end.  Instead, he uses language that, by association, inevitably implies ‘celebrating’ the confederacy, celebrating a world in which white men ruled black ones and fought for the right to enslave them, celebrating treason by the southern states, celebrating the instigation of a bloody war for the right to maintain a way of life both perverted and decadent.

McDonnell has a long history as an arch conservative. (And yes, in today’s America and today’s Republican party, “conservative” implies at least the passive recognition of the acceptability of race hatred; for instance, how many conservatives expressed outrage over this?)  During his campaign for governor, McDonnell’s Regent University thesis came to light:

At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples. - The Washington Post

McDonnell has clearly staked his conservative bona fides on abortion,  homosexuality and women’s right.  He had yet to imply his sympathy for white supremacy.  Having done so, I sure he feels politically and personally complete.  

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I remember when his type was considered fringe. This was when I lived in Florida 25 years ago and knew the fringe personally, but worked with the merely conservative. The merely conservatives and I laughed at this guy's type as being backward--not anymore apparently. Have you read Assassination Vacation? "Sic Semper Tyrannis" is Virginia's state motto, and coincidentally (?) what JW Booth hollered after asassinating Lincoln. Just fabulous. Great post, well written, thanks.
Your point is just a crazy assumption, and in and of itself racist in nature.
Celebrating confederacy history isn't racist? That to T.S. As you say, "civil war history" is much less contentious. Thing about dog whistles, they're deniable...
VA prides itself on providing so many of the Founding Fathers, considers itself a citadel of letters and learned men in an otherwise mostly ignorant South -- that such a state would elect such a man is sign enough that the march of progress is running in reverse.
On the whole, the South refuses to acknowledge it was wrong then -- as it is wrong now.

Note calls for secession by the Texas governor, rewriting of history textbooks in that state to include Jeff Davis inaugural address, and lawsuits against HCR in at least thirteen states -- all this reveals the ugly dark heart behind Teaparty protests. What are they really angry about? A Black Man in the White House
VA prides itself on providing so many of the Founding Fathers, considers itself a citadel of letters and learned men in an otherwise mostly ignorant South -- that such a state would elect such a man is sign enough that the march of progress is running in reverse.
On the whole, the South refuses to acknowledge it was wrong then -- as it is wrong now.

Note calls for secession by the Texas governor, rewriting of history textbooks in that state to include Jeff Davis inaugural address, and lawsuits against HCR in at least thirteen states -- all this reveals the ugly dark heart behind Teaparty protests. What are they really angry about? A Black Man in the White House
I think we should expect a month honoring King George and British Rule next with everyone dressing up ad Benedict Arnold. Never understood why a flying a flag that represents secession (treason) is not a federal crime.

Great post. Congrats on making the cover. Glad to see something on there other than infotainment. So tired of seeing updates on TV shows there, I don't usually read the cover any more. Glad your post caught my eye when I checked for new posts today. R
Very well stated, Leonce. Frankly, accusing your post of being racist is nothing short of ridiculous.
With all the work to be done in one day, how does he find it in his cold heart to want to make THIS is focus of his constituents. Are they so well off this is really the only thing they need to think about? What a lame, lame leader.
It's not a dog whistle, it's a real whistle.
As a Virginian I am constantly shamed by what this new reactionary administration has done in just three months. It should be remembered though that Virginia was one of the most radical of the segregationist states, closing public schools rather than integrating them. Also not that long ago there was a long and bitter fight in Richmond over putting a stature of Arthur Ashe on the Boulevard, next to those of Confederate heroes.
A couple of years back my family was thrown out of the Confederate Museum in Richmond because my young children were making too much noise and "not showing proper respect". The museum is now closed due to lack of interest.
I would like to rate this, but a tech glitch is keeping me from doing so.

I wrote of something similar in my own town, an annual event that has been occurring for almost a decade now under the auspices of the city government with nary a peep of protest from citizens.

This is a place where the Civil War effectively never ended, where the cultural barons cherish the antebellum South and publicly lionize unrepentant Confederates. It's a city of unrepentant vulgarity and maddening willful ignorance.

And by my reckoning, the cyclic nature of its deep-seated xenophobia and paranoia ensures that it will never change.

Thanks for this.
Good post- the rating system worked for me.

Interesting perspective -

I have posted on this same topic - with a slightly different view- I hope it is okay to share that here. If not I won't be offended if you delete this comment. Thanks for your view.

What happens when middle-aged bitterness, contempt, resentment and mean-spiritedness is mistaken for leadership.
I understand whu some people react poorly to expressions of pride in Southern heritage.
I am also from Alabama, and the sense of defeat in that war, and the resultant sense of identity, in which most, most soldiers iof the Confederacy did not own slaves, is not mainly about anything other than a sense of regional identity, although I favor keeping quiet about it because it does offend some, for understandable reasons.
In the end, one can wish one was both Joshua Chamberlain, reinacting the battle of Canae with one wing on little Round Top, admire Stonewall Jackson's tactical brilliance, a man who did own slaves, but also founded a church for slaves, who he taught, because life is full of moral ambiguities, and, most fundamentally, one can admire the reality of what Lincoln said in 1865.
With malice towards none, with charity towards all, let us take care of him who hath borne the burden of battle, and his widow, and his orphan, and endeavor to constuct a just peace, among ourselves, and all nations." But I understand why some people get angry about the Confederacy, but then try to see it from their point of view, which is that to not take pride in the past is to reject your family, which most people cannot do.
A conservative said something I don't like!
It must be racism.
pfft, please.

I find you post hateful towards something you know very little about. IMHO, you know what you are taught in schools that have an agenda. So let's try a few facts on for size.

Let's start with a little "Honest Abe". Held out to be the man who freed the slaves. How about the man who didn't care who owned you and didn't plan on doing anything about it.

We all are familiar with the current and 2nd 13th amendment to our Constitution. The amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The 1st 13th Amendment was passed by the House on February 28, 1861 and the Senate on March 2, 1861 and sent to the state for the required majority for ratification. This amendment read “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of such State”.

Shortly after the passage of the 1st 13th Amendment President Lincoln supported this 1st 13th Amendment a couple times. First during his first inaugural address quoting what he told the New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley; “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Later during the speech he said “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution -- which amendment, however, I have not seen -- has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

He backed up those statements with this:

On August 22, 1861 Lincoln explained himself by saying “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.”

So what part of that did you learn in school?

How about some of these facts:

The first black in the Senate was from the South.

Danville, VA was the last capital of the Confederate States.

The Civil War ended in Appomatox, VA

The Civil War was fought over tariffs. Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War but reject a call to leave the southern states alone, and they would soon come back, because he was concerned over his tax revenue so he provoked the SC problem so he could send in northern troops.

Everybody thought the north wanted the free slaves. They didn't. In fact the Underground Railroad ended for about 30,000 in Canada. In 1850 Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law allowing slave catchers. to operate in the north.

Blacks from the north were forced into slavery. It didn't matter if they were runaway, freed, or had never been a slave. To ensure that blacks were sold into slavery from the north the courts would not allow blacks to defend themselves. Judges were paid $5 for a decision that someone was not a slave, but paid $10 to enslave someone. Want to guess what the ruling was?

You know they blacks who volunteered to fight for the South and signed up in black units. The north, wouldn't let blacks in the army.

Here let's try an easy one. Ask people what the flag of the Confederate States of America looks like, and I'll bet 90% get it wrong. I'll also bet most don't know what it's called.

It's history. Good, bad or indifferent it's our history. All history should be remembered. Virginia, more than most states, is up to their eyeballs in it. Just look around the state and you will see everything from battle fields and shot towers to the graves of both sides, and the stories of all who fought and died.

I find your posting insulting to everybody who has a southern heritage.
On one side we have a post about a Gov. of Virginia who is a jackass. On the other we have a couple of comments defending him and trying to present a brief interpretation of the 1860s, the Civil War and Reconstruction. The truth lies somewhere in between.

It's been a bit since I've read history of this time frame (essentially the entirety of the 19th century). But my recollection is that the Civil War was about far more than slavery and that it's genesis had more to do with the fundamental issue of states rights and the economic underpinnings of the southern states than anything else.

This was a contentious issue which nearly caused much debate and acrimony during the efforts of the original Continental Congress. Our Union was a fragile one leading to the fractures and secession in 1861. If a southern state or states wish to commerate that time--and states rights, fine by me. However, doing so as a celebration of the good ole days of slavery and Jim Crow is just wrong.

This governor is a jackass. What worries me is that in reading and watching events unfold in our nation over the last decade it seems to me that the jackasses are winning. And I'm just a bit nervous.
I grew up in LA - that's Lower Alabama. I live in Virginia and like it. Sometime during the middle of the Civil War, or more toward the end, one of my relatives sold land in downtown Chattanooga for confederate money. In school I was taught that the South fought to defend states' rights. My father's family had a cross burned in front of their house, and I saw the fear and hatred that Dad had for the KKK. I know the history and the arguments about family and heritage. I embrace my Southern heritage. I also know that the South was wrong. I know that the first right they defended was the right to maintain a way of life based on slavery (see John Calhoun's speech of 3/6/1837).

Many non-slaveholding southerners fought for Confederacy because it was their homeland. Germans, Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis and others have done the same. That doesn't mean they were right and the causes behind the wars are worth honoring.

I accept all my Alabama, Virginia and Southern heritage, including the warts, but I don't want the government to honor all of it.

Our Virginia governor could have proclaimed Civil War History month, but he didn't. He could have proclaimed Southern Heritage Month, embracing all of our history. Instead he chose part of Civil War history, the Confederacy, to honor with no caveats about the slave-based way of life the Confederacy fought to uphold. It feels much like it would if he had chosen to honor the Virginia state and local governments and the citizens who participated in the organized "massive resistance" against integrating schools. Many of the people were sincere in their fears, and that is part of their family history. But they were wrong. They fought against measures to achieve equality. There's no reason to deny them, but there's no reason to honor them. The Confederacy was wrong to fight to defend it's way of life. Let's study it, but let's not have our government proclaim it.
Responding to Don Rich, who said:

"I understand whu some people react poorly to expressions of pride in Southern heritage.
I am also from Alabama, and the sense of defeat in that war, and the resultant sense of identity, in which most, most soldiers iof the Confederacy did not own slaves, is not mainly about anything other than a sense of regional identity, although I favor keeping quiet about it because it does offend some, for understandable reasons."

Unfortunately, a grotesques often flourish in the midst of cultural gardens. German culture has given the world much. There is a great difference between German cultural pride, and commemorating "Brown Shirt Day."

The confederacy and the South are not synonymous. By conflating them, you suggest that Southern heritage is genetically linked to slavery and race hatred--that one exists only as a subset of another. I don't think you mean to do that. One can be proud of one's heritage without highlighting is ugliest chapter as that of which you're proud.
So let's try a few facts on for size...

Sure. Let's try the facts that are summed up here. Like you said, all history should be remembered.
Before the debate continues on defining Gov. McDonnell's agenda, a look at the events scheduled for the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the American Civil War appears to show a reasonable and balanced effort to reflect on every aspect of the state of Virginia's history during the Civil War.


Confederate apologists focusing on tariffs is classic avoidance- the facts are, and you can check the news of the time, that many GOOD people of various stripes in the North were outraged to have a joined at the hip connection with the most repulsive of all human practices. Draw you own conclusions as to what any decent person would think of Virginia's hallmarks in any time or place. And, of course, the usual laugh at the entire regiment of Southerners going on and on about their heritage, customs, cuisine etc. all of which are entirely West African- particulary the one missing here: Dat Ol' Southern Hospitality! - for all that they got greens n snoots! no 40, no mule.

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The Civil War was not about tariffs. The confederacy maintained tariffs during the entire war. You are correct that the war was not about freeing slaves in the south; it was about preventing the spread of slavery to the western states. The Kansas-Nebraska act and the Missouri compromise were both failed attempts to solve the problem. The Republican platform of 1860 made no mention of tariffs but one of its central planks was the prevention of slavery in any new states allowed into the Union.
By 1865 over 200,000 African Americans were serving in the Union army and navy.
The first Confederate flag was called the Stars & Bars it changed several times during the war ending up as The Bloodstained Banner.
Just to set the record straight, Blacks (almost 200,000) did serve in the Union Army after 1862, when the ban was lifted and the law was changed because more soldiers were needed. And shame on us, because, of course, black soldiers didn't receive equal pay or benefits until 1864, and were not honored as they should have been when the war ended. It's only through recent documentaries on PBS that I learned that there were black soldiers on both sides. That information was missing from our history books back in the 60s.

And as for Lincoln, I believe he was totally transfigured by the war and the Emancipation of the slaves. He was no longer the same man at the end of his presidency, and the end of his life, that he had been in 1861 when he made the statement about the saving the union and emancipating the slaves.

Thanks for this great post. Let's keep the history discussions going -- it's the best way for us to understand each other and find a common ground.

Penelope Ann
After watching the news about Bob McConnell's Confederacy debacle, I searched Salon and found your article, which is very well written. I'm a white native Atlanta who's had the experience of seeing many sides of racism in my life- that it exists in some blacks and whites in the South, as well as Asians and whites in the Seattle area.

It seems undeniable to me that there is a resurgence of racist sentiment ever since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. It's apparent to me in hearing almost daily conversations here in Georgia and watching the extremists who make the headlines.

It's my fervent hope that this is a dying whimper of the old guard who shudder at the thought of having a black President, but I also see the young faces in the crowds who are brought up with such skewed views that focus on superficial differences of color and cultural backgrounds.

Thank you for your knowledge. Yes, keeping slaves from the west was a big deal. I just goes to show how many different faces belong on this issue. To boil it all down and say it's racism is just wrong. Yes, there was, and still is, some racism but the main movement was states rights. Somehow, I think it's about to hit again, which makes this history lesson more valuable.

On the Stars and Bars is it a good education or good research? Either way, I glad you know and understand. I find it funny that most people think the battle flag was something it wasn't.
I have a Southern heritage and don't find this post insulting in the least. It's true. The Civil War was about slavery. It was couched in terms of states' rights and tariffs, but essentially, it was a slave state vs. non-slave state war. I'm sorry, but to not notice that incontrovertible fact is to be essentially and obscenely and purposefully blind to the actual historical events. There's a reason there were 'border' states as well, which also had to do with slavery.

This declaration of a Confederacy Day is a symptom of a pitiful truth. We as a country have yet to move beyond the Civil War period in terms of ideals and philosophies. In other words, there are a bunch of people out there who would return to the era of slaves with nary a thought. We need to review our history books, because this same unrest was experienced not long before the Civil War. I have lived with this claim of 'not about slavery' for most of my life. I was even taught this in school, as if it was the truth. But it is not. It ignores the main thrust behind the war itself, for the related issues, which were spotlighted because of the issue of slavery.

Simply put, to pretend the Civil War was primarily about states' rights, etc. is to ignore the reason those rights were 'at risk'. That is, they were being challenged on the basis of SLAVERY. Please. People.

I'm just tired of the lying. It's irritating and stupid. Go look at the episodes of unrest of that time. Go look at the provocative legislation of that time. Come on, now. As a Southerner, I'm tired of this crap, this massive game of pretend we have going on here. I'm tired of it.
Yes, there was, and still is, some racism but the main movement was states rights.

Specifically, the slaveowning states' made-up "right" to own and trade darker-skinned people like livestock. Read the article I linked to above, Catnlion -- it's all there, in the words of the people who actually led the movement. You don't even need a translator.

"made-up "right" "

I like that term. So who gets to decide what is and what isn't a right? The government doesn't give us rights. They are to protect our rights. They do take them away, but where do they come from?
So you're saying there really is a natural or other right to own other people?

No, I just asked a simple question. Who is the great decider of what is a right?
Great post. I'm shaking my head at the "nothing-to-do-with-slavery" Confederacy types. It was all about that great principle of decentralized federalism where the "right" to own slaves was a footnote. I guess that stuff still gets taught in certain backwaters.
Regarding coogansbluff's remarks about the Museum of the Confederacy, it is remarkable but I believe I was actually at the museum the day of his visit. As I recall, his two children were not only loud but were running throughout the exhibits. A museum employee approached the children's mother and asked if she please control them, not only out of respect for other visitors, but also for the protection of the children and the exhibits. The father of the children then accused the employee of insulting his family and demanded his money back, which was granted. Coogansbluff, if this account is not the one of your visit, I apology. BUT Coogansbluff, I do correct on one account...the Museum of the Confederacy is NOT closed and it receives "interested" visitors from all over the world.
Dear Open Salon,
Can you please find a way to block this schlock merchant from peddling his junk in the comments sections of these posts? Annoying doesn't begin to describe what it's like to wade through his swill while reading others' comments. Thanks.