27 Feb Taking down the Confederate Flag – Pride and Prejudice?
Lately, the display of the Confederate flag has been the source of a lot of controversies. Some think of it as a part of Southern heritage, pride and tradition while others view it as a sign for racism, slavery, segregation and white supremacy. The background of the Confederate battle flag must be understood to make a logical analysis of the whole issue. The Southern Cross as it is called was first used in General Robert E. Lee’s army of Northern Virginia at the time of the American Civil War in 1861. President Abraham Lincoln’s anti-slavery legislation in 1861 was not welcomed in seven Southern states, and consequently, a rebellion arose. The 13-star saltire in red blue and white never officially symbolized the 13 Confederate states. Many Southerners consider it as an extension of Southern heritage, tradition and a symbol that makes the Southerners distinctive from the rest of the country.
For many white people in the south and beyond, the Confederate flag is a symbol of historical self-esteem and resistance to whatever is currently termed “liberalism”; to most black Americans, the flag reminds of white supremacy and racial violence. Today, the representation often appears at “pro-white” rallies and adds to the anguish of America’s calcifying racial divides.
The civil war began in 1861 between the US south – where America’s slave trade was booming and expanded by the mid-1800s – and the north. After the Union emerged victoriously, it forced a harsh Reconstruction on the south that still fuels white outrage today. The post-war white south welcomed the Confederate battle flag, making it their visionary symbol of the “lost cause” of the war. By the time Mississippi secured it into its new state flag in 1894, the flag was applied to both honor the Confederate dead as well as a romanticized version of the war’s meaning.
In April 2001, Mississippians voted along racial lines to keep the flag as it was. The dispute intensified in 2015 after Dylann Roof executed nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. A photo soon surfaced of him holding a Confederate flag. Proponents argue that it never stood for slavery and racism and that its purpose is solely based on historical commemoration. Many claims that the flag has been in continuous use since the Civil War. However, opponents believe that its usage has been revived to promote racial bias, segregation, and inequality.
Historian John Coski stated segregationists utilized Confederate symbols since both they and the Confederates had similar goals, that is, opposition to any “change the South’s racial status quo.” Defenders have been commonly using the phrase, “heritage not hate” to defend the Confederate flag. The Civil War was the bloodiest war in the history of America, with a death toll of about 6,20,000. Supporters of the Confederate flag say it’s a way of keeping alive the memory of Southern heritage and ancestry. They say protests against the flag should be perceived as a breach of the fundamental right of speech and it’s completely unconstitutional to encourage such an outrage.
In the past, white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis have openly used the Confederate flag in their rallies. Opponents like the Southern Baptists have strongly condemned the flag as a symbol of “racism, bigotry, and hatred.” They have demanded a ban on the flag. The flag surfaced in President Trump’s rallies as a part of the “Make America great again” which has made the African American community highly apprehensive. Since the all-white rally at Charlottesville, where the Neo-Nazis brandished the flag, anti-racist activists have criticized the usage of the flag. Several legislations have been against the Confederate flag. In California, the flag can’t be displayed by State authorities since January 2015 after a Black legislator enforced a law. On the other hand, Mississippi is the only state which features the Southern Cross on the state flag.
Amidst all the national tension over the usage of a flag, it is hard to decide the fate of this controversial flag. What are your thoughts? Should states be allowed to display the Confederate flag on government property?