Is it racist to fly the Confederate flag?
via AP

Is it racist to fly the Confederate flag?

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Until recently, most Americans saw the Confederate flag in neutral or positive terms, but that's starting to change as movements like #BlackLivesMatter are bringing the issue to the forefront of America's culture wars. Those who fly the rebel flag say it represents Southern heritage and is a symbol of defiance. Critics of the rebel flag say it's impossible to separate the symbol from its history—it's clearly racist. What do you think?


Gerald Warner at Breitbart argues the Confederate flag is a key symbol of Southern identity and efforts to suppress its display are akin to erasing Southern culture. It's part of a larger narrative which argues the Civil War was fought in support of states' rights, and the revival of the Confederate flag is simply a matter of recognizing American history. 

Flags, statues, church windows, street names, films, novels, even an elementary school in California named after Robert E Lee – all are threatened with being swept into oblivion by a tsunami of destructive liberal triumphalism. The object is to disinherit and eradicate the historical memory and distinctive culture of millions of Americans. It is a second scorched-earth devastation of the South, cultural this time rather than material. This is Obama’s March to the Sea.

For many, the Confederate flag has become a symbol of a new narrative for those who do not identify with the mainstream and oppose Washington D.C.'s policies. For those who fly the flag, history matters less than the act of defiance associated with flying the rebel flag—it's a big middle finger to the government and to anyone who wants to police behavior. 

But like their Marxist predecessors in the Soviet Union, the culture warriors of the left cannot be appeased by any concession: they rightly interpret it as weakness and demand more. Those who initiated identity politics are attempting to obliterate the Southern identity. There is only one response: defiance. Every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag. Hoist it high and fly it with pride, it proclaims a glorious heritage.

But if we're being intellectually honest, it's impossible to separate the flag from its history. The Confederate flag has been used in distinct periods of America—obviously first as the battle flag of Robert E. Lee's army, and then again as a symbol of resistance against the Civil Rights movement. In both cases, the flag was raised not for heritage, but in an organized effort to deny Black Americans their rights entitled to them as human beings. 

In other words, the flag stands for racism and oppressing Black Americans. It's impossible to erase that history.

But what is far more problematic is that there is no way to separate the fact that it is on all of those flag poles and on those license plates, that it's on t-shirts and coffee cups and other paraphernalia, precisely because it was resurrected in the 1940s and 1950s as part of a massive resistance campaign against the civil rights movement. It wouldn’t exist in our national popular culture without this moment, when African Americans fought for their equality, and the battle flag was recovered and redeployed as a symbol of opposition to it.
What was once a very blatant, full-throated defense of white supremacy has now become this gesture to heritage and history that is presented as though it has nothing to do with the civil rights movement. But it has everything to do with the civil rights movement.

Here, Youtuber iDubbbz rails against Apple for removing all games with the Confederate flag, and explains why the Confederate flag isn't all that different from most things in American history—a lot of American history is racist. There's no real need to remove the Confederate flag from the public sphere because either "everything is okay, or nothing is okay." 

Fun Fact: The Confederate flag that people claim as their heritage, is not actually the flag of the Confederacy. John Oliver explains why it's an asshole move to fly the Confederate flag. 

Public opinion about the Confederate flag has remained steady over the past few years. Most people feel neutrally about the flag, but only 10 percent of Americans feel positively about it. When broken down by race, the numbers show Black Americans are more likely to feel negatively about the flag compared to White Americans.

This Quora post addresses the idea that the Civil War was about states' rights. It wasn't. Here, Francis Dickinson quotes directly from the documents penned by Confederate leaders, which explicitly state why the Confederate states were seceding. (Spoiler alert: It was because of slavery.)

In a separate Quora post, Jon Davis argues symbols do not have fixed meanings. Just because something meant something at a certain point in history, does not mean it permanently holds that meaning. He goes further and says the way we talk about this is negative if we truly want to reach any kind of consensus. Attacking and passing moral judgment on a person does nothing to convince them to abandon their beliefs—it only encourages them to bunker down. 

That's all I'm saying here. The meaning of symbols change to match the evolution of people. The idea of the Confederate Flag today is not the same as it was a century and a half ago. Or maybe it is. Maybe the legacy, the ideological evolutionary vein that has kept the heritage of the flag alive is absolutely racist. I don't know. I'm not one of them, but if we want to settle this matter, it can't be done by one side attacking the other as bigots, decrying what something they hate means to them. That sort of behavior only causes more hate... always. Look at any case where a people have been villainized for their beliefs by people who didn't listen to what those beliefs were. It never ends well.
Post by Kevin DeGroff Garber.
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