Honor, Respect And Shame: The Life Of The White Southern Male

To label slavery a crime is to insist that its white beneficiaries should have known what we know today, or to say that they had information that we now have access to. Southern Honor, Ethics and Behavior in the Old South written by Bertram Wyatt-Brown; maintains that honor was the animating force in the antebellum South, the basis of the slaveholding South’s integrity. The white slaveholders valued honor and genuinely trusted their own slaves, loved their families, the people that they were close to and knew best, yet they were convinced that the black race was vile, bestial, and fit for nothing but bondage.
Mr. Brown in his book utters the following quote, which he feels explains why the white Southern man defended slavery and why he fought so hard to keep it instilled. “The inhabitant of the Old South was not inspired to shed his own slaves. Ever since man first picked up a stone to fling at an enemy, he has justified his thirst for revenge and for popular approval on the grounds of honor…White Southerners were certain their cause was justified by that prehistoric code.” In summary this quote states that the white Southern planter did not just wake up and defend hid slaves but it was predestined that man defend his property and take revenge against his enemies. The slaves were their property and the Northerners the ones to exact their revenge upon for trying to take their slaves.
The white Southerner felt that the black was inferior, an animal, and most certainly property; this opinion this caused the treatment of blacks and especially the justice system to promote the interests of the white slaveholding elite. Blacks free or slave sometimes had trials for offenses committed; many did not get trials and even fewer got fair trials. Slaves were supposed to bestow honor on all whites, it was important to show obedience and respect with sincerity. It would not suffice for the slave to pretend to show respect then the white man’s honor would cease to exist. The slaves were punished heavily by the Slave codes for the smallest infractions. Slaves believed guilty of malicious crimes such as rape, murder, poising, sedition, and insurrection were commonly burned alive or castrated without the benefit of a trail. Since blacks knew how they were to be treated, they mostly stayed out of trouble, and the white generally trusted them.
The white Southern family was raised with a sense of loyalty and respect for their parents. A son was taught to live up to other family heroes and to be just as great. The father needed to decide when he should transfer his power and property to his son so he would have a sense of honor and confidence, but not all sons were ready to accept the level of maturity and threw the house into chaos.
Honor was important to the white Southern man, so important that it had to be kept at all times, even if gained by violence. Honor made you a respectable white man; honor was how your slaves were treated or the respect that you received from your family and friends. Slaves were looked down upon and mistreated as if they were born for bondage. The white Southern male was a complicated individual, which valued honor and the respect of his family and slaves over his life.

Category: Social Issues