Storify: HBO and Confederate

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

There were no sympathetic Confederate slave owners. There weren't any "good" slave owners in the Confederacy. This is partly a definitional issue: one cannot be both "good" and a Confederate slave owner. But it is also a statement about how white supremacy polices itself, INCLUDING its white members.

One of the Dear America books (overall a good series but with a racism problem and very white authors) features a "good" Confederate slaver. The author actually imagined that a "good" Confederate slave owner would have public school for slave children to teach reading. This comes, I suspect, from modern white people imagining what they would do if they were born in a slave-owning family. "Well, I might accept slavery as normal, but I'd be a good master and open a school." Without any understanding of Slave Codes in law.

Every slave-holder in the Confederacy was BOTH fully complicit AND policed to remain so by the rest of the white supremacy. White supremacy doesn't prop itself up and then nicely ask its members to please not dismantle it. White supremacy wrote itself into LAW and made sure any white qualms of conscience were quashed. (Still complicit. Always complicit.) Any fictional property about the Confederacy, written by white people, is going to want to show "good" white slave owners. There were none.

Because: A) being a good Confederate slaver is a contradiction in terms. B) acting "good" to slaves was illegal and policed by white society. Slave Codes were often inconvenient to white slave owners! But they were enforced to protect white supremacy at all costs. This HBO show cannot show slavery accurately because they will never commit to understanding how white supremacy works.

They'll want to make "good" white slavers for the white audience to empathize with. "Good" people socialized to accept bad things. And it doesn't work that way. Confederate slavers were **regularly** confronted with the disconnect between their morals and actions. They KNEW they were doing bad things and they did them anyway. They were not "good", not even in some amorphous heartfelt way.

And I understand the place white people come from where we want to wank off to "what if I were born into that situation?" But that wankfest of rolling around in guiltfeels shouldn't be given a goddamn HBO series that will hurt Black people right now. We have white privilege NOW. We can use it NOW. Write letters. Yell about this show. Elevate Black voices. Call HBO. Threaten to cancel.

"What would I have done with white privilege back then?" is best answered by "What am I doing with my white privilege right now?"

After the interview with the writers: Keep calling HBO. Meanwhile, every line in this interview is painful. Gaslighting: The Interview. "What if the South won but don't use the word 'winning'!!"

This interview seriously seems to imagine that everyone's objection is on Civil War era IMAGERY rather than IDEALS. Trading in whips and flouncy skirts and plantation houses for tasers and power suits and lavish apartments doesn't change the CONTENT. If anything, an update of the imagery makes it MORE likely Nazis will use the show for recruitment!! "Look how things could be NOW."

Right at the top of the interview: We wanted to make a movie but we have an ensemble (yet unnamed, unwritten!) cast. Meaning "good" slavers. The ONLY way to have an ensemble cast without a single character name or word written is to have them in your head as archetypes.

Literally the question went "people are concerned MODERN DAY Nazis will love this" and he said "no because it'll be SET in the MODERN DAY." And if slavery never left us (it didn't) and people need to see how bad Right Now is.........why do we need the South to win the war?? The entire POINT of alternate history is "what if [time period, such as Right Now] but [changes]." By definition they CAN'T show Right Now.

The white response to show will either be relief ("we may be bad, but at least we don't...") or giddy anticipation ("we could have that!") Also? The fact that the North doesn't have slavery actually makes me MORE worried. Here's why: Every modern freedom we take for granted was gained through the hard work of Black people, many of whom were former slaves or descendants. If the North (or the South, for that matter) has female suffrage, gay rights, disability rights? Erasing all southern Black contribution.

Showing an alternate MODERN history (instead of plantations) actively tells so many Black people that they didn't make a difference. At least with plantation imagery, we'd get the idea that without Black freedom the US would've stagnated. (Arguably true!) They are barely aware of this in the interview, referencing the French Revolution going differently.

And I'm just. Blinking, like. Without... southern Black activism... your first thought is the FRENCH REVOLUTION might be a bit different??



┳┻| _
┻┳| •.•) The French Revolution.

Like, but everything else--EVERYTHING ELSE??--would have been the same? How does that not play into the white supremacist rhetoric that white people invented everything and discovered everything? We have to bring lists out here of Black inventions, medical advances, agricultural revolutions, technology, EVERYTHING because of Nazis. This show is gonna have, like, cars and shit (or flying cars, so scifi! could be anything! nothing's written down!) without Black inventors.

"What people need to understand is racism happens NOW!" okay maybe but also people need to understand the DEBT we owe to Black people. Hell, whatever MUSIC they use in the show will have been shaped by centuries of Black musical invention. Again: a Gone With the Wind reboot would probably have been BETTER, just because it would have implied total stagnation. For once, we could have explained Fantasy Tech Stagnation in a property: tech stalled because we kept the best of us in slavery.

The only defense I can offer for the French Revolution quote is apparently she had only about an hour's advance notice of this interview. But that's... the point, isn't it? The entire interview repeatedly SAYS--says OUT LOUD--that they've done no research and no writing. Any creator can tell you that it's not until you get into the nitty gritty of CREATING that you realize an idea is an un-salvagable mess. Ideas are great, perfect, beautiful things until you start putting words on paper and go "oh shit no bad idea". And they haven't DONE that. (Also, this was a bad idea and everyone should feel bad.)

I'm still upset that two white men famous for ADAPTING an already successful property can get greenlit without a word written on this. The more I read this, the more I'm not sure the show creators realize that the Revolutionary War and the Civil War weren't the same. There was never a war with the South to "enslave the entire country". (Editing and reposting this tweet.) Tweet edited because there were several wars intended to enslave or kill the entire country. They were fought against indigenous peoples. But the Civil War, the Confederacy referenced in the title, wasn't trying to bring slavery to the North.

I was willing to let that slide but we have the French Revolution reference and I'm just... you guys know you need historians for this?? I mean, even just the idea of a multi-front openly-acknowledged white LAND WAR in 20th century America. "White land war" because I don't want to erase the constant unbroken violence against indigenous nations on our continent, though this show probably will. Are they going to hire indigenous writers from multiple nations?? (I'm guessing they won't.) Dear @HBO, how many Native American writers are you hiring to contribute to and fact-check the alternate timeline of your Confederacy show?

I've been hesitant to dive too deep into this because I'm whiter than mayonnaise spread on Wonder Bread and sprinkled with salt, but the treatment of Black people in our country is inextricably intertwined with our treatment of non-Black immigrants. Does anyone have faith that HBO can accurately tease out a sensitive portrayal of North and South responses to Asian and Middle Eastern people? And we know--because they TOLD US--that the North and the South are still hostile enough for a land war. That almost guarantees that they had to oppose each other during WWII. I HAVE QUESTIONS. WHICH SIDE WAS NAZI-ALLIED?

The obvious answer is that the South was Nazi-allied which means the REAL answer will be the North, because Both Sides and Moral Ambiguity. Except the South can't be Nazi-allied without changing MORE things because now the Zimmermann telegram is non-canon. And the North was very pro-Hitler for a time, as was the South, so it isn't inconceivable that the North wouldn't have been pro-Nazi. BUT. My point here isn't to stan for the North (haha NO) but to point out that AGAIN this will be used as Nazi propaganda in the real world.

Southern hate groups will be wanking off over a South that won WWII and owns slaves and is just fucking better than everyone else. Northern hate groups will be wanking off over a North that joined Hitler and terrorized all the non-Black people of color. (I'm assuming this version of Northern Nazism is okay with Black people... somehow... but god even knows. This is a mess.) The modern Nazi movement isn't intellectually rigorous, y'all. They love Hitler and love that we won WWII. This gives them both.

And look. Okay? Here's the thing. *tries to steer this back on track* It's easy to get distracted by the sheer shiny volume but "but how the FUCK...?" with alternate history. That's not what I want to do here. The point is that going down this alternative history rabbit hole the way HBO is trying to do will HURT Black people. It will also hurt non-Black people of color and non-white people in general. This show will hurt non-white people either by erasing their contributions ("you didn't matter to history, it all turned out the same!"), or by wallowing in their pain for entertainment purposes.

Every word of this interview bellows they haven't listened to critics, they haven't done any real research, and they're hostile to criticism. They've outright said they don't want critics to say a word until AFTER everything has been written and filmed and is being aired. So while we can talk a lot of noise about the historical MESS this is, the point isn't because Inaccuracies, it's because HARM. Nazi groups are going to LOVE this show and, when asked about that, the HBO party line answer is that they got rid of whips. They think that's the sum of the objections and concerns about this idea: that people don't want to see whips on the teevee.

I exhort folks to:
- call HBO
- write letters
- cancel ur subscription (and say why)
- call Netflix / Hulu and ask them not to air this

It's going to be a lot easier to stop this when "nothing is written!" (or so they claim) than once it's airing and ads are all over buses.

I've had a couple people accuse me of bias in this thread, and I will here note that I am 100% biased against the Confederacy. I am 100% biased against fictional properties which portray Confederate slave-owners as sympathetic or decent or relatable. I am not unbiased or objective or fair or reasonable. I don't intend to "be fair" and see how this show shapes up. I oppose the very idea. Frankly, I hope if this thread does anything, it convinces other people to be as unfair to the idea of this show as I am.

We should be supporting Black and other non-white authors and creators over this show.

* DREAD NATION is an alternate-history adventure where Confederate and Union soldiers rise from the dead at the end of the Civil War.

* THE BELLES by @brownbookworm is an alternate world where Belles serve the Queen of Orléans and grant color and beauty to people.

* Noughts & Crosses by @malorieblackman features an alternate history where Africans made Europeans their slaves.

* Kindred by Octavia Butler is about a modern Black woman transported to the antebellum South through time travel.

* Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is "edgy Afropolitan in space! a wondrous combination of extra-terrestrial adventure and age-old African diplomacy."

* Who Fears Death (also by Nnedi Okorafor!) is set in post-apocalyptic Africa and is going to be an amazing show!

* The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is a Gulliver’s Travels-esque odyssey to freedom.

* The Blazing Star by Imani Josey is a book about Black twins who accidentally travel back in time to ancient Egypt.

* An Extraordinary Union by @AlyssaColeLit is about a Black woman who spies for the Union during the Civil War!!

After a lot of Confederacy apologia in my mentions:

Hey, okay, one more thing: White people, can you stop with the idea that Confederate slave owners didn't know slavery was wrong? Confederate slave owners *absolutely* knew of the idea that Slavery Is Bad what with them FIGHTING A WAR WITH PEOPLE OVER IT.

The Civil War was in the 1860s. The British Empire abolished slavery in the UK in the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. Thirty years before. The 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was expanded to the "exempted" territories of the British Empire in 1843. Twenty years before the war. The British Empire was *garbage* about human rights and the American South knew--KNEW!!--they were way worse.

I got white folk in my mentions telling me that abolition was a "new idea" in the 1860s and slavers "didn't know" slavery was bad. BULLSHIT. Plus, and I feel the need to repeat this, enough people opposed slavery that a war was happening AT THAT MOMENT in 1861-1865. Do not fucking tell me that slave-owners hadn't encountered the idea that slavery might be wrong. They knew. They chose their choice.

No Confederate slave-owner was *ignorant* of the idea that slavery was morally wrong. They chose not to agree with that idea, but they damn sure were exposed to it. They weren't innocent or ignorant or "didn't know better". One person told me "information traveled slowly" at the time, and I am not trying to be mean but trips to Europe were COMMON. Not to mention that American news, culture, literature: all this talked about slavery heavily! Slave-owners read books and papers!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published in 1852! The book sold an unprecedented 300,000 copies! Southerners not only READ her book, they wrote RESPONSE books (called "anti-Tom novels") to contradict her! Do not, DO NOT tell yourself that Confederate slave-owners just didn't know some people thought slavery was wrong. They knew.

I am angry and frustrated that this HBO show is going to continue to further this idea of white naivety and innocence. Because god help me, there will be a slave-owner character who somehow was never exposed to the idea that slavery is Wrong. And that is just NOT. HOW. IT. WORKED. White children in the Confederate South were exposed to the idea from infancy. They were exposed to the idea because their parents read and talked about and wrote novels and preached sermons AGAINST the idea.

And just as you or I or every other person has had to grow up and decide whether our parents were right, these Confederate kids did too. And the ones who chose to keep their family's slaves CHOSE to do the wrong thing. Chose to side with their wrong parents. Chose. HBO is going to erase all that with some handsome white boy and his "slave mistress" gently introducing him to New Ideas. Lay money on it.

On the erasure of indigenous peoples: I forgot to mention this earlier and I want to talk about it now rather than let it go: DW calls slavery our "original sin". Now, I am white! But I have always heard the term "original sin" with regards to America to be racism, not slavery. This is important, because when we define racism as our original sin, that includes slavery but also our attempts to exterminate indigenous American people. I don't know how to compare the crushing horror of US slavery with the weight of what we did to indigenous people. I don't think we CAN.

But it's... weird and jarring for HBO to just brush native people aside entirely and forget what we white people did to them. I don't feel like the erasure of native people is a small point when this ENTIRE "alternate history" doesn't seem to take them into account. A lot of the westward expansion happened right before and right after the Civil War. "Spirit of the Frontier" was painted in 1872. The Homestead Act of 1862 sent 600,000 families west and gave them ~160 acres each practically for free. The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, encouraging expansion. Would that still have happened? Have they thought about it? In 1898 we deposed Queen Liliuokalani in order to annex Hawai'i. Our "original sin" of racism impacted the native Hawaiians.

I just... this show is a mess of anti-Blackness. But it also appears totally willing to erase the history of indigenous people. Which isn't something HBO can claim to have "fixed" by adding one or two writers. This alternate history impacts so MANY American nations. (I'm being updated that the "original sin of slavery" is a quote from President Obama, so I stand corrected on my mishearing.) But. Original Sin or Extra-Crispy Sin, this show is erasing a LOT of indigenous history in addition to the horrific anti-Blackness.

Write HBO and ask them to stop this show. Or at least hire more writers than the ones interviewed. Indigenous writers, Hawaiian writers, Black Civil War & Reconstruction historians. Like, even if you're one of the "well, this COULD be good" folks, you can demand they hire indigenous people as writers. C'mon.

On plantations and migrant workers: I keep coming back to this "assurance" that we won't have plantations. But... we... kinda have those now? Why would they be gone? Do they not realize that one of the biggest jobs for migrant workers is way-below-minimum-wage agriculture? US agriculture didn't stop being a thing just because 150 years past and we're all modern and cell phones and shit. It honestly sounds like they want to do a modern / futuristic show about slavery where everyone has, like, 2.5 house slaves and that's it. That's not how slavery works. That's not how any of this works. You can't just get rid of plantations but keep slavery.

And it means we're back to erasing people who don't neatly fit into White Slavers and Black Slaves dichotomy, by erasing migrant work. Our incomplete tally of erasure:

- Black accomplishment
- Native American existence
- Migrant workers

I guess I should use the hashtag for this thread. #Confederate #ConfederateHBO

I don't think the writers (who can't even NAME the battle they think would have Changed Everything!) realize how ambitious this project is. Which....really illustrates how little they seem to think of Black people and of US slavery. They think Black people and US slavery are just little.....side notes in American history that can be tinkered with. Which is odd with them throwing around terms like "original sin". It's a BIG DEAL but also totally easy to change and still get modern 2017.

EVERYTHING we see on the screen of this show should be radically affected. The tech. The politics. The food. THE FOOD. The clothes! Are we buying from sweatshops abroad when we have the capability for sweatshops (and cotton fields) now? And @arthur_affect already pointed this out, but neither the North or the South should in any way be a global power in this AU/AH. Like, we didn't go to the moon. (We couldn't have ANY way! Black women put us there!!)

And they're going to want to have roughly the same level of tech--bombs and guns and drones and stuff. Is there effective terrorism? I honestly can't see how there would NOT be! Slaves resisted! Violently! That would only ramp up with tech. The premier will probably start with "slave terrorists" blowing up the Southern World Trade Center and we can be sad for the whites.


On the glorification of slavery as "efficient" and "profitable": Wait, I have found more objections in my brain! Every damn time the South is shown to be better in any way from the North, this show will be engaging in the "trains run on time" fallacy. My friend @BathysphereHat has deconstructed this, but there's this false idea that fascism and oppression are "bad but efficient". Fascism is not efficient! The trains didn't run on time! The South was drowning in debt!

The South will be a viable competitor to the free North (remember, there's a Third Civil War in the 20th century, presumably a stalemate!), which is frankly unfathomable to me, but implies that slavery is efficient and pays financial dividends for your immoral choices. Unlike some of my other objections, this isn't even a prediction. We KNOW the free North and slave South are roughly matched in strength. Which means that for all its disadvantages, like keeping its brightest minds in bondage, the South is as good or better than the North, because slavery is just so profitable. Which is pro-slavery propaganda, whether intentional or not.

On comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale: Now a thing I have seen several times from white people: How is this show any different from The Handmaid's Tale?

The Handmaid's Tale is set in the near future as a cautionary tale of what could happen if we continue to appease violent anti-choicers. Confederate is set in an alternate history wherein slavery not only IS legal in the US South but HAS BEEN legal for 150 years. Everything you see on the screen--the food, the clothes, the tech--will have been invented by white people and created by slave labor. Even political innovations like women's suffrage and right to hold property, divorce, and prosecute rape, or civil rights for queer people will all have stemmed from the ideas and labor of white people. This erases a century and a half of Black accomplishment.

FOR NO OTHER REASON, the show would be objectionable for that alone: reinforcing the white supremacist idea that whites invented everything. Other objections apply. For one, white viewers will not parse any sex that happens on the show the same way they do with Handmaid's Tale. White people talk about "slave mistresses" and suggest that master/slave "relationships" are consensual rather than rape. The Game of Thrones guys involved with this show *already* have a terrible track record with rape and the depiction thereof. This isn't comparable to Handmaid's Tale, because no one seriously believes that Offred is a consenting partner to her captivity. Because she is white. Which audiences WILL react differently to Black rape victims on this show.

There are many objections to this show, but asking "how is this any different from Handmaid's Tale?" illustrates a lack of context. Confederate is different from THM because of the erasure of Black accomplishment and our cultural acceptance of harm done to Black bodies.


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