First of all, I’m not a born-and-raised Southerner, so I’ll admit I’m coming from a different perspective from my friends who are. Still, I must admit I’ve been surprised at the passion, even vitriol at times, expressed in recent days about the Confederate flag.
I also admit I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write more on the matter, at least beyond what I added to a good friend’s thread on Facebook, where I was clearly in the minority. It kind of sucks the wind right out of me when I try to explain my position and nobody seems to “hear” me. Instead some fly off in their own direction, sharing their own versions of history and expounding on their fears of every other way “they” are taking over this country. Some even accuse anyone who disagrees of drinking the “Kool-Aid” of the “other side.”
But here I am, almost twelve hours and a good walk in the woods later, and I’ve decided to give it a try, though I may not hit the “Publish” button.
First of all, as I said in my comments on Facebook, everyone is entitled to their opinion, on this and every other matter. My opinion is simply that I don’t think the Confederate flag–a flag that represents racism to so many–should fly at a state capital building that represents all citizens of that state.
This does NOT mean that I think people who believe the flag represents the pride and heritage of the south shouldn’t display it. That does NOT mean that I think the government should forbid individuals from displaying the flag, nor do I believe the government has moved in that direction, though many seem to think they have.
True, some individuals and corporations have removed the Confederate flag, and that is their right to do so, just as it’s anyone’s right to no longer give those institutions more business.
Again, I’m not a Southerner, so I accept that I don’t “get” the sentiment attached to the flag. I do, however, understand the frustration expressed by those who want to fly the Confederate flag that their displaying it in no way means they are racists. My friends who want to fly the Confederate flag are NOT racists. They see the flag as a symbol of Southern pride.
Yet, I also understand how my African American friends are offended by the flag based on its history. Surely my Southern friends can understand this.
Yet, we are unable to find compromise.
I learned a few things about the Confederate flag today, and what I learned doesn’t seem to match many of the sentiments I heard expressed today.
I’ve taken the following facts from two articles:
- CNN: “The Confederate Flag: Separating the Myths from the Facts”
- NPR: “The Complicated Political History of the Confederate Flag”
The Confederate states went through three official flags during the four-year Civil War, but none of those three was the battle flag that’s at the center of the current controversy.
The fourth flag, and the one about which there has been so much discussion, was the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s army unit, as well as several other Confederate units at the end of the war. However, when the war ended, according to CNN, “Lee distanced himself from divisive symbols of a Civil War that his side lost.”
According to the CNN article, the fourth Confederate flag turned up only occasionally between the end of the Civil War and 1948, when:
South Carolina politician Strom Thurmond ran for president under the newly founded States Rights Democratic Party, also known as the Dixiecrats. The party’s purpose was clear: “We stand for the segregation of the races,” said Article 4 of its platform.
As desegregation progressed through the decades, more and more the flag became an emblem of white supremacist groups.
These are historical facts. Surely those who want to continue to fly the Confederate flag understand why it is offensive to many. Are we simply to ignore this?
I’ve been surprised at how little recognition I’ve seen (in fact, in a few instances, I’ve seen downright denial) of the symbolism of slavery, segregation and white supremacy.
Again, I absolutely do not believe my friends who have a sentimental attachment to the Confederate flag are racists. Yet, I don’t understand how some of them seem unable to accept how many, particularly African Americans, may see anyone who flies the flag that way.
Part of the problem is that many refuse to see the “other side” and are entrenched in their own opinions and beliefs, seemingly unwilling to compromise.
I have an idea. Why not fly one of the three Confederate flags that existed BEFORE the fourth flag–the flag that is now so divisive? To my knowledge, none of those flags were used as symbols by racists.
I’d be interested to hear other ideas. So far, all I’ve seen is a bunch of name-calling and finger-pointing. We’ll never get anywhere that way.