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Last night, Tucker Carlson took on the subject of slavery on his Fox News show. Slavery is evil, he noted. However, slavery permeated the ancient world, he said, as reflected in the on-screen graphics.
On Twitter, recent University of Toronto English Ph.D. graduate Anthony Oliveira noted, “Here's Tucker Carlson right now on Fox making the *exact* pro-slavery case (bad but status-quo and well-precedented) made 160 years ago.”
It sounds like a particular variety of Twitter gallows humor, not meant to be taken quite seriously. But it is not a joke.
This precise series of ostensible mitigating factors around the institution of American slavery were, in fact, advanced by pro-slavery forces through the 19th century. And it got me wondering: Given that The Atlantic was founded as an abolitionist magazine before the Civil War, might there be an article or two that might address Carlson’s warmed-over proto-Confederate arguments?
And indeed, there are.
Take Carlson’s bullet point, “Until 150 years ago, slavery was rule.”
This is what Confederate flag wavers mean when they say they are “fighting for their heritage.” They are fighting for the right to declare their ancestors good, despite the evidence of the horrors they perpetrated, which rival anything that happened in the 20th century.
And what they’re counting on is that Americans, no matter when their families arrived across seas or rivers, will excuse the Confederate flag-wavers because they want to believe only the best stories about our country, too.
There is no excuse. That other people at other times owned slaves—Greek, African, or Native American—does not excuse the system of oppression that we erected on this continent to build this country.