Yeah, this is a window into the entire psychology behind the whole “South Will Rise Again!” and “Heritage not hate” mind-sets. Read this excellent first-person account of what it was like to lead tours through a former slave plantation, and to have angry white people attack for daring to suggest that black slaves did not lead a life of luxury.
There’s an entire subset of southern white racists that cannot, WILL NOT, allow themselves or anyone else, to admit that slavery was wrong, bad, evil. They desperately try to turn the conversation into a false equivalency by bringing up cases where white people had it tough:
Other guests seemed to have come around to slavery apologetics through a different route: They seemed find part of their identity in a sense of class victimhood, and they were unwilling to share the sympathy and attention of victimhood with black Americans. As Frank Guan pointed out in the New Republic, explicitness of racism tends to be inversely proportional to social class. Guests who expressed racism most openly to me often appeared to have had recent ancestors who were poor, who were prevented by convention and economics from rising in social status, and who were exploited by the powerful — but who were protected by their whiteness from the extreme oppression visited on African Americans. These guests felt that the deck had been stacked against them for generations, and their sense of ancestral victimhood was so personal that the suggestion that any group of people had it worse than their ancestors did was a threat to their sense of self.
These slavery apologists were less invested in defending slavery per se than in defending slaveowners, and they weren’t defending slaveowners so much as themselves.
There’s a lot here that makes sense. I find myself continually frustrated at the pushback I see from friends and relatives who will fight to their last breath to try to minimize what happened to slaves, while maximizing their own family histories of hardship and suffering.
For all the RWNJs supposed adherence to the cult of self-reliance, and taking responsibility for one’s life circumstances, there is underlying it all, this sense of victimhood, of blaming liberals, the media, gays, blacks, feminists, etc. for everything that has ever gone wrong in their lives. The author’s suggestion that to engage with them in a more gentle, accepting way, is one that in my better moments, I try to approximate.