How did the south justify slavery?

United StatesRacism - the legacy of slavery

Montgomery, Alabama. The human rights organization Equal Justice Initiative has its headquarters in the main street of this small town with a great history of civil rights. It is a product of the African American civil rights movement, says Bryan Stevenson, the founder of this NGO. Above all, she takes care of the many African American inmates in US prisons.

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, a nationally known attorney who has saved many innocent people on death row from the death penalty. Stevenson grew up in Sussex County, Delaware, in a black neighborhood in the country. Socially, politically and culturally isolated, as he says.

Segregation is the legacy of slavery, says Bryan Stevenson. And it has been overcome by no means, despite the successes of the black civil rights movement in the 1960s. That is why he campaigned for the "National Memorial for Peace and Justice", which opened in Montgomery in April last year and which commemorates the victims of lynching against African Americans. 400 years after the first slaves from Africa were chained ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, there is still no equal treatment between whites and blacks. Stevenson sees this as a heavy political burden and speaks of a kind of "historical smog" that lies over the country. Stevenson says slavery and racial segregation are still far from being dealt with. Neither historically - nor morally.

White supremacy narrative

Not only that there has never been an admission of guilt. Or an apology for the brutal violence against slaves and black US citizens. Let alone a truth and reconciliation commission. The narrative of the ethnic differences between whites and blacks is also unbroken to this day, says Bryan Stevenson: This thesis justified slavery at the time. Today it is the political creed of the White Supremacists, the advocates of supposed white supremacy.

Stevenson sees the consequences of this attitude in the almost knee-jerk behavior of many police officers and judges. Blacks are considered "dangerous" just because of their skin color. That is why they are disadvantaged by the American judicial system and subject to particularly harsh penalties. It is understandable that the "people of color" are so allergic to police violence, for example, says Stevenson.

No country in the world locks as many people behind bars as the United States - 2.2 million prisoners are held in the country's often private prisons. The African Americans are far over-represented. Blacks are eight times as likely to be shot by police as whites.

Women and teenagers are also often sentenced to life imprisonment for minor offenses. This practice of mass incarceration and disproportionately harsh sentences is part of the cultural heritage of slavery, says Bryan Stevenson.

Worry about right-wing violence

The north did indeed win in the American Civil War. But the South won the war of narratives. The southern states have never been asked to reject and reject enslavement as an immoral act that should never have a place in human experience. They have never been asked to renounce the thesis of white superiority.

Bryan Stevenson is concerned about the rise in violence on the part of the extreme right in the United States - who see Donald Trump as one of their own and claim him for themselves. And yet Stevenson does not give up the fight to change the narrative.

"Our work aims to change people's consciousness, to challenge them and to make it harder for them to escape historical responsibility."