YES, the Flag is Racist

The Confederate Flag is a rusted, racist relic that belongs in a museum, and not in any self-respecting modern discourse. It is an obsolete flag that represents a nation that no longer exists, and that stands for an obscene way of thinking about which the South really should be thoroughly and universally embarrassed.

Do I think it should be banned? No. The abolition of slavery didn’t work so well the first time around, forcing an abolition on the Confederate flag will work just as well. I mean, I don’t think anyone would go to war over this, but let’s just say there would be an unreasonable amount of resistance to a forced removal.

I take the same position on this flag as I do with religion. I don’t want to see it forcibly removed from anyone, I’d rather see the proponents of it honestly and finally recognizing it for its obsolescence and impropriety, resulting in it being willingly tossed into the dustbin of time. That willingness to dissociate took a quantum leap thanks to the Charleston shooting. Hell, even NASCAR has announced that the Confederate Flag is no longer welcome at their events, and many race tracks are establishing a “flag swap” program. When you lose NASCAR, that most southern of the major sports, maybe it is time to rethink a few things.

Still, Fox News and other media outlets have been firing out the sound bites from people defending the flag. These are the most common ones I’ve seen:

“Removing this flag from state houses and so on won’t prevent another ‘Charleston Shooter'”

That is quite likely correct, but that is not what this is about. I have not heard anyone promoting the idea that it would prevent another racially-motivated killer, so that makes this a silly argument.

Yes, the 2015 attack in Charleston has intensified and refocused attention on the flag, but the reasons to surrender this flag to the clutches of obsolescence are made no less valid by the Charleston shooting.

Yes, the Charleston Shooter used the Confederate Flag as a justifying and uniting symbol for his hatred. He liked symbols like that. The symbols reassured him that he was in the right, that he had a just cause. He was wearing several of them when he went into that church. Removing one symbol from his collection likely would not have diminished or delayed his actions. Again, that is not what this is about.
Discouraging another racially-motivated killer requires a whole different set of actions.

“Freedom of Speech!”

People are tired of seeing a symbol of oppression and hatred embraced and promoted as simple “freedom of speech”. The “freedom of expression” argument carries much more weight if you acknowledge what you are expressing. The right to express something does not in any way protect you from the consequences of saying it. Just ask Donald Trump about how he lost the Mexican immigrant vote. Promoting this flag as a symbol allows others to identify you as a backward, racist, bigoted oppressor. But yes, it is your right to be identified as such.

“It’s actually a battle flag, it was never an official flag”

Original flag of the Confederate States of America

Flags, like any symbol, carry whatever meaning is infused in it. In its day, yes, the flag was the battle flag of one General Robert E. Lee, who needed a flag for use on the battlefield that could be distinguished from the flag of the United States of America form afar. The Confederate Flag of the time (illustrated on the right) wasn’t so easily distinguished. This, however, is a technical point that does not mean anything. It is a distinction without a difference. It matters not how the flag came into existence.

So yes, it was a battle flag of a Confederate Army fighting to maintain the right to practice slavery. It stood for racist principles. It stood for the wanton oppression of a people. Or, it stood for the state’s right to wantonly oppress a people, but I’ll get to that later. The soldiers who fought under the “Southern Cross” flag of Lee more closely related to this flag than any other, so when those soldiers became veterans, it became the symbol they used to represent the cause for which they risked their lives.

The modern meaning behind this particular flag was infused into it in its resurgence in the 1960s as a protest response to desegregation, and has been used in this capacity ever since.

Just in case you forgot what it looked like

“Nobody had a problem with it when it was on the Duke Boys’ car…”

The Dodge Charger that was called the GENERAL LEE? …That played Dixie for its car horn? Let’s just chalk that one up to short memories, general ignorance, and a concerted effort to soften the Southern rebel image.

Also, let this be a lesson to those who wish to “repurpose” old symbols like this. Its acceptance in the Dukes of Hazzard show was due to the softening up of the flag’s symbology by those revisionist historians who wanted – for differing reasons – to give it a newer, more acceptable meaning. The problem is, these campaigns could never overcome the fact that those who continued to espouse hatred, bigotry, racism and oppression also continued to embrace the flag as their own symbol. As we have seen, it still effectively promotes all those properties.

“Yeah, but there was one time when the Klan DIDN’T use the Confederate Flag!”

This is not about the KKK, but let’s go there. While this statement is correct, the KKK use it proudly now, because of its racist roots. I do not understand how this claim supports the argument that the Confederate flag does not represent racism. In fact, the KKK is planning a rally for July 18, 2015 at the South Carolina Statehouse Grounds to protest “the Confederate flag being took (sic) down for all the wrong reasons.

“It’s used to remember the confederate soldiers who fought for a noble cause”

…Or so Mr. Bill O’Reilly would like you to believe. I think Mr. Reilly confuses eloquence with nobility. I have read the words of Jefferson Davis, from his announcement before Congress of the secession of Mississippi, through to his post-war notes. He did speak and write with a surprising eloquence that is a rarity even now. But what was the noble cause that Bill speaks of? Unfortunately, the closest thing to a ‘noble cause’ that I could discern was the next topic:

“It was about states’ rights!”

Bullshit. Pure and total bullshit.

Oh, you want me to expand on that? In a nutshell: President Abraham Lincoln promised to abolish slavery throughout the Union. A group of Southern states did not want that, broke away from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America so they could continue with their slave ownership. The two nation states went to war over it, with the Union winning after Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation.

Where they want to you believe that it was about “states’ rights” is that the Southern states refused to recognize Federal authority on the matter, claiming instead that the states themselves had the right to rule on that issue (the same argument we’re seeing used in some of the same ‘slow-learner’ states today over the marriage equality ruling.) and they refused the abolition of slavery. It wasn’t about the state’s jurisdiction on, say, horse-trading laws, or schooling standards or giving women the vote or any other number of issues. Their concern was solely the issue of slavery.

To say that the The American Civil War was about states’ rights is akin to saying World War II was all about German rights to annexation.

Thanks to the American Civil War happening so long ago, very important documents and contemporary writings about the war and the motivations for it are available in the public domain! (WE LOVE YOU, PUBLIC DOMAIN!)

One I found particularly enlightening was a chronicle, meticulously recorded by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during the war. As the war was drawing to a close, Davis notes in detail his disgust at the Union having the citizens of each state swear a citizenship oath that toed the line on the Union’s position of abolition.

Librivox.org has converted Davis’ extensive 2-volume “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” into three audio volumes. Part 1a, Part 1b, and Part 2. Project Gutenberg also has Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Project Gutenberg has Speeches & Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 1832-1865.

The resources are far too many to list here. If you would like to learn more, visit The Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, or Librivox.org to search for freely accessible Public Domain material on the American Civil War. As always, when doing your own research, be cautious to consider the source. There have been a lot of biased writers on the issue, so if you can, try to determine if the writer has a bias and take that into account. Some accounts are fictionalized, so myself, I prefer to take writings from the people involved themselves, such as in the Jefferson Davis volumes above. You will also find other interesting perspectives such as a series by Annie Heloise Abel, Ph.D. focusing on the American Indian and their roles in the Civil War, including some slave-owning First Nations people who sided with the Confederates.

Bottom line: Yes. The American Civil War war was all about slavery, and it really was as simple as that. Anything else is just costume-dressing for denial. What we today call The Confederate Flag represented what they were fighting for, perhaps even moreso than the original official Confederate Flag. No matter which way you slice it, the flag represents racism, it represents oppression, it represents slavery, and worst of all, it is the embodiment of a “god-given” entitlement and desire to preserve all of those things.

Would anyone think it appropriate or acceptable to fly a WWII-era German War Ensign in a protected space on the grounds of the Israeli Knesset? Then why would anyone think it appropriate or acceptable to fly the Confederate Flag on protected ground at the South Carolina state capitol, or any state’s grounds?

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