Friday, July 10, 2015

Is the Confederate Flag Racist?

One hundred and fifty years later, we're still fighting battles from the Civil War. The tragic shootings at a South Carolina church of nine African Americans at the hands of a white man touting white supremacy has reopened a debate that has plagued our country since it's darkest days more than a century ago. Though the first black President currently resides in the White House, racism is still a part of our society. As President Obama rightly pointed out, just because it's not as visible doesn't mean it's no longer there. After pictures of this young man were found where he poses with the Confederate flag, the debate has begun about whether or not it stands for racism.

This is a debate that I believe deserves mature and honest discussion. It's not as simple as black and white (pardon the pun) as there is plenty of grey on this issue. I've spent a lot of time pondering this question in recent weeks. As the Confederate flag is taken down from flying over the capital of South Carolina, I find myself agreeing with the decision though I don't believe the flag stands for racism.

At least, not originally. But over the years, the Confederate flag has been warped into a symbol of racism and white supremacy. When the stars and bars were first flown, they represented a country that wasn't fighting for slavery but for the power of individual states. While Lincoln and Republicans (in a case of historical irony) believed in the power of the federal government, southern states (ironically led by Democratss) believed that the states should be allowed to govern themselves. While this did entail being allowed to own slaves, the Civil War was about states rights more than anything else. The Confederate flag was a symbol of freedom. Indeed many brave men died fighting for their beliefs under that flag. Fighting for the Confederacy does not mean that they were racists.

But in recent decades, it's been used for other purpose. The flag that has flown over the capital of South Carolina was originally put up in 1962 as a way of protesting federal-enforced desegregation. Today the flag is used by KKK groups across the country and by people who view themselves as white supremists. Many African Americans are understandably justified in their feelings that the Confederate flag has become a symbol of racism, just as many Conservatives and southerners are also correct when argue that it's not. I think it's important to recognize that both sides are justified in their feelings even though they each allege that the other is wrong.

I personally believe that the Confederate flag should no longer be flown because it's been transformed into something that it's not. As long as it's embraced by those who wish to use it for their fight to dominate other races, it's no more appropriate for any state to use the Confederate flag than it is for them to use the German swastikah, itself viewed as a symbol of hate and genocide.

It's important to acknowledge it's place in our history as it originally represented the honorable notion that people have the right to question their government, a belief and freedom that the Southern States exercised during the Civil War. I'm saddened to say that the Confederate flag, which once represented freedom and liberty just as much as the American flag, has been reduced to a symbol of hate and racism.

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