|Bruce Smith/Associated Press|
The recent battle over what most people think of as the Confederate flag needs to end. In one breath, I would defend your right to fly it, but in the next, I would remind you that flying that flag makes you look racist even if you—in ignorance of its true history—don’t believe it does.
There is no need for a lengthy discourse on the reasons that this popular Confederate battle flag (that’s what it was) is a symbol of racism. The history is alarmingly clear, in a “Why are we still talking about this?” sort of way.
The first and simplest reason that continuing to argue in favor of this flag makes you sound like a racist is the same reason that calling the Civil War the “War for States Rights” and trying to deny that it was fought over slavery makes you sound like a racist. The reason I’m referring to is comprised in the well-documented articles of secession of the Confederate States, which can be easily accessed here.
If you prefer not to do your own easy research, here are quotes take from the declarations of each seceding state. These are not cherry-picked, they are the PRIMARY, and in most cases sole reasons for secession:
Mississippi - “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”
South Carolina - “But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.”
Georgia - “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property [meaning black slaves], and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.”
Texas – “She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”
Virginia – “ . . . having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.” [Emphasis original]
Yes, as a Texan, that made me cringe, too.
The battle flag that so many today want to preserve was raised as a standard to fly over men who willingly and knowingly allied themselves to the abominable cause listed above as they shed the blood of their fellow men in the name of that cause. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this singular fact.
To defend that flag by saying that it represents southern pride or tradition is to loudly your ignorance (willing or not) of history and, worse, to assign that ignorance to your entire region.
Stop. You are embarrassing yourself and others.
If the creation of this flag as a bloodletting standard for the cause of slavery is not enough to make you put it down, the second reason ought to.
Those who created the flag as a battle standard for the cause of slavery were too addicted to the economy they had built upon that cause. Those who raised that standard later did not have even that poor excuse to stand upon. They simply raised it as a banner of pure, unadulterated racism.
The battle flag of the Confederacy became the primary symbol of segregationists like the Dixiecrats who battled the civil rights movement. They did not misappropriate some previously adored southern symbol. They correctly chose the single most appropriate symbol for their ugly, inappropriate cause. They used a standard founded upon fighting for the cause of slavery.