Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Confederate Flag and Racism

Karen Russell writes the following in her article on Huffington Post this morning:
On what planet is the Confederate Flag NOT racist? Here on Planet Earth, the Klan uses the Confederate Flag as symbol of white supremacy. Get a clue. If the Klan is using your symbol, it's racist.

To deny that it is racist is to deny common sense and to ignore recent history.

The flag enjoyed a huge renaissance during the Civil Rights era. Angry, white Southerners brought it back to show they weren't going to take this whole desegregation thing lying down. They adopted it again as a symbol of hatred and defiance. They dusted it off to terrorize blacks who had the audacity to fight Jim Crow laws.
Read the entire article here.

plez sez: i rarely pull someone else's post into plezWorld, because you can just as easily go to their post and read it yourself. but this one really resonated with me and i wanted it on my blog, as well.

i've lived in the south for over 25 years, so i've seen my fill of this offensive symbol (for a small fee, you can even have one on the license plate for your car). and i have not met one confederate flag waving yahoo who i would say is not a racist! this confederate flag issue is so wrong and so offensive on so many levels, it is hard to put emotions aside and write my thoughts coherently. but here goes:
  • the "it's my heritage" argument: guess what, buddy, it's part of my heritage, too! it's just a slimy and dirty and hateful heritage: it's a heritage where hate was used to subjugate and KILL Black people, it's a heritage where Black peoples rights were abused and ignored, and it's a heritage that gives the flag waver tacit approval to speak his/her hate in public without saying a word. when you say that you are not a racist for wanting to wave or display a confederate flag, you are pissing on my leg and saying that it is raining!

  • the "civil war memorabilia" argument: guess what, buddy, the civil war was fought to destroy this country and preserve the institution of slavery. i don't care how many stories about the number of slaves who fought for the confederacy, because those slaves did not know what they were fighting for (similar to our troops who are currently in Iraq, but that's for another post).

  • the "you want your history, but you want to destroy mine" argument: guess what, buddy, the civil war was fought to destroy this country and preserve the institution of slavery. that is something that we should never forget and it should be part of every child's educational development. don't teach children about the nobility of the Lost Cause, teach them about the folly of the southern states judgment.

  • the "states rights" argument: guess what, buddy, no state has the right to promulgate hate against its citizens. in most southern states, the Black population is very sizeable and everything possible was done to keep those citizens in check (anyone remember Jim Crow?). the people who lamented the end of Jim Crow were the same ones who were waving the confederate flag while they were doing it! this is no different than a group of skinheads waving a nazi swaskita, it is no less hateful or threatening.

South Carolina should not have been given the opportunity to host neither the Republican nor the Democratic debates on national television. i specifically wrote nothing about the debates because i did not watch either debate, it is part of my personal boycott of the state (i only go there or go through there if necessary).

[hat tip: The Huffington Post]


Anonymous said...

Driving down I-95 last summer I came across several flags posted in plain view. It was disturbing. When we got to Myrtle Beach, a few novelty shops were selling mugs and shot glasses with the flag on them. Now, while I'm not against SC (I think my father just moved there, not sure though) I do think they need to understand that there is nothing novel about the symbol.

plez... said...

when i was in college (at Georgia Tech), there was one fraternity in particular (whose "spiritual founder" is robert e. lee - the civil war general of the confederate army) that used to fly a rather large confederate flag outside of their frat house. they also celebrated an "Old South" day where their members would dress up in confederate uniforms and their girlfriends would don those antebellum hoop skirts and parade around campus singing "Dixie"! talk about a culture shock!

don't get me wrong, south carolina is a beautiful state, but it is backwards as hell when it comes to race relations. i'll just limit my visits to the state until they join the rest of the country in the 21st century and remove the confederate flag from its capital grounds in columbia.

Lori said...

Nice post, Plez. My first published newspaper piece (a guest column in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, 1989) dealt with this very same topic.

One of the things I said back then was . . ."Let us not forget the war is over and the South was defeated. The flag served its purpose and is entitled to a place in history. It is not entitled to a place on the flag poles of a country which strives to make real the promises of freedom, justice and equality for all."

plez... said...

i agree with you, the flag is a part of our history. i feel that it should be relegated to museums and history books, not flying with honor on state capitol grounds.

endangered coffee said...

Nice post -

You're right, if a racist organization uses the symbol, rest assured it is a racist symbol. Native Americans used the swastika years before the Nazis, but I don't think any government would let a swastika wave from its statehouse.

Dangerfield said...

" i don't care how many stories about the number of slaves who fought for the confederacy, because those slaves did not know what they were fighting for (similar to our troops who are currently in Iraq"

mark bey: Those stories are non sense thier was no sizable amount of african american soldiers fighting for the souh.

Now slaves did contribute to the southern cause in the form of growing and harvesting food that feed the confederate armies. Also slaves worked on confederate fortifications. But no large amounts of black soldiers fighting for them. It is a myth they are pushing to try to in order to claim that the southerners werent fighting for thier slaves. When they actually were fighting to keep thier slaves.

Lester Spence said...

I got a couple of additions for you:

*the idea of a confederate flag is a contradiction.

remember what the south was trying to run away from was a strong centralized government (well, except for the fact that they wanted the federal government to protect their property...). the entire idea of a SINGLE flag goes against EVERYTHING the south supposedly stood for.

which brings to mind....

*the confederate flag has no real place in southern history UNTIL the fifties. check it out. it's only around the middle of the 20th century that the confederate flag becomes the symbol we all know and love. and what happens in the south in the fifties??

Lisa Johnson said...

Well done. Nothing can justify the flying of the confederate flag. It is a hateful symbol.

CapCity said...

I recall a similar debate over the swastika many years artist argued that the swastika was not originally intended as a symbol of hate - well, we know that the Jewish community could care less about it's ORIGINS. It's become a symbol of HATE as the ConFed Flag has & it should be designated to museums & history books AS u stated Plez.
Thanx for the post, great topic!

CapCity said...

EC - didn't notice until just now that u mentioned the same swastika reference - great minds think alike:-)...
Regarding that "Slaves fought alongside the confederates to preserve slavery..." HELLO...key word - SLAVES = did what ever was required to stay alive!

endangered coffee said...

no problem capcity, it's a point that bears repeating

David Sullivan said...

I was just vactioning on the Alabama Coast and there were so many of those flags around. I am all for perserving ones culture, but they lost that war 130+ years ago!!!

I am not an advocate of violence, but I can't say that if I were a decendant of slaves that I wouldn't beat senseless one of those dudes with a confederate flag hanging in the back window of his pick up (or at least key his vehicle).

On my ride from Alabama to New Orleans I followed one such pickup for a number of miles. I called my buddy Marcus and said "guess what I'm driving behind now?". You can imagine the response.