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Excerpted From: Emily R. Larrabee, Violence in the Name of the Confederacy: America's Failure to Defeat the Lost Cause, 14 Drexel Law Review 451 (2022) (243 Footnotes) (Full Document)


EmilyRLarrabeeViolence perpetrated in the name of the Confederacy is so commonplace in American society that evidence of a defendant's allegiance to racist neo-Confederate hate groups can be excluded from his murder trial in which he is accused of fatally shooting a Black man while serving as a police officer. Police officers with ties to neo-Confederate hate groups are not an anomaly. One disturbing account details a Chicago police officer with ties to the KKK who tortured at least 100 Black men whom he allegedly suspected to have committed crimes. The officer, Jon Burge, was convicted of multiple offenses for his use of torture methods, including pressing electric cattle prods to the men's testicles. If the United States had a methodology for weeding out members of neo-Confederate hate groups, such as the KKK, from pools of applicants for positions of power within the sphere of public service, such as police officers, countless lives may be spared.

This Note addresses violence perpetrated by neo-Confederate hate groups as such violence becomes more prevalent in the United States. “Neo-Confederate” is a term used to describe the belief that the Confederacy was heroic in its fight for states' rights in the Civil War, and it is typically used to describe a specific branch of white nationalism with a predilection for Confederate symbols. Neo-Confederate groups disseminate a version of the Civil War typically referred to as the “Lost Cause.” The Lost Cause reflects an ideology that began in the Reconstruction era to rehabilitate the reputation of the South by twisting the cause of the Civil War into a battle for states' rights.

To finally eradicate neo-Confederate and other hate-group-related violence, the United States should look to Germany for guidance, create an appropriate crime for domestic terrorism, remove Confederate pilgrimage sites, and ban public displays of Confederate symbolism. Ultimately, Congress should enact legislation, just as Germany did in response to Nazi violence, to curb the perpetuation of neo-Confederate and other hate-group-related violence in the United States.

Part I of this Note addresses the history of white supremacy in America, which has set the stage for the violence to which American society has become desensitized. Part II juxtaposes the American history of white supremacy to Germany's history of Nazism and the rise of neo-Nazi ideology in the wake of World War II. Finally, Part III offers solutions directed toward the removal of Confederate imagery and namesakes from American society.

[. . .]

The pseudo-historical narrative of the Lost Cause is nothing more than a dog whistle for neo-Confederate white nationalist organizations. Rally calls of the Lost Cause embolden members of neo-Confederate white nationalist organizations, which results in race-based violence that the United States government has thus far been unable or unwilling to control. Congress must enact legislation that acknowledges the sins of America's past. Learning from how Germany confronted its racist past can be instructive toward this end. The goal of the legislation that this Note proposes is to delegitimize the platform of neo-Confederate white nationalist organizations and educate American youth on the atrocities of the South pre- and post-Civil War.

America must reconcile why it authorized and participated in denazification in Germany, but it refuses to do the same with respect to slavery on its own soil. With blood on its hands, the United States government must act to correct the wrongs of the past.

Emily Larrabee is from Charlottesville, Virginia. She is a 2022 J.D. candidate at Drexel University's Thomas R. Kline School of Law. She received a B.A. in international studies, with a concentration in world politics and diplomacy, and minors in Chinese studies and Latin American and Iberian studies from the University of Richmond.

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