Lately the idea of the Confederate flag has been a topic of discussion. When arguing with some on the far Right, you hear excuses as to why the Confederate flag isn’t racist, such as; “It’s our heritage! It’s part of our history!”, “It wasn’t even the official flag of the Confederacy!”, and “The Civil War wasn’t about Slavery! It was about States Rights!” or “It was about the economy!” All of these reasons are quite ridiculous and ignore major parts of real history.
“It’s our heritage! It’s part of our history!”: I am willing to admit that the Civil War and the Confederacy did play a part in American history, because it’s actually true. The Civil War was a HUGE part of our history. But that doesn’t mean that we should celebrate and honor those against which America fought. The Nazi’s also played a big role in American history, but most of us don’t think it’s ok to fly Nazi flags from our vehicles and proudly wave them in the air. One man I debated with a few days ago posted a meme in response showing the graves of Confederate soldiers with the words “These are American War Veterans too!” But what this man, and whoever made the meme, fails to recognize is that Confederate soldiers WEREN’T American veterans. The Confederate states seceded (meaning they gave up their status as Americans) from the United States of America, forming a nation that rebelled against us at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. In reality, Confederate soldiers weren’t Americans at all! They were Confederates. Honoring the fact that your ancestors died in war is one thing, trying to honor them with equal status of actual American War veterans, who fought and died for the cause of freedom and liberty, many of which fought and died against those very Confederates, is a disgusting and insulting twisting of historical fact. The Confederates were traitors fighting for the subjugation of African Americans. Period. When the war was over their leaders should have been arrested and tried as traitors. Those in the South that are alive now don’t get to rewrite history and paint this picture of heroic Confederate soldiers fighting for honor.
“It wasn’t even the official flag of the Confederacy!”: Who cares what the official flag was? Regardless of whether it was the official flag of the Confederacy, it is a Confederate flag and it is what is proudly flown around by many in the South and by groups like the KKK. Since the Civil War, the Confederate flag that we know has been flown as a flag of white supremacy, fear, hatred, and racism. Yes, there were many other Confederate battle flags, but this is the one that has stuck as the symbol of the Confederacy and of the “Southern” way. As an article I read pointed out, you can claim the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage, but normal, rational people don’t look at it that way. When everyone else sees you flying that flag, they automatically label you as a racist, and rightly so.
“If You Ban the Confederate flag because of Slavery…”: Another common cliche I’ve heard tossed around by Confederate flag apologists is that if we ban the Confederate flag because of slavery, then we have to ban the American flag too, because the North had slaves at one point. My answer to this, is that the big difference is that America fought a long, drawn out war to end slavery. America realized it’s horrible mistake and tried to fix it. No, that doesn’t make up for the fact that America had slaves. That is a disgusting part of our history that we should never forget, but nevertheless, America fought to change. The Confederates fought America causing hundreds of thousands of deaths specifically so they could keep people in chains. That is why we should ban the Confederate flag from government buildings and not the American flag.
“The Civil War wasn’t about slavery! It was about [insert made up Southern reason]”: Those in the South like to pretend that the Civil War was about something other than slavery, because they don’t want their ancestors to be seen as backwards, slave-mongering, racists who viewed another group of people as animals. They throw things out like “States Rights” and “The Economy”, but in reality it was about slavery. All of the letters, speeches, and documents written and spoken by Confederate leaders admit it. No amount of Southern revisions on history can change this. This Southern attempt at revisionism isn’t something new. It goes all the way back to the end of the Civil war to something called “The Lost Cause.” This was the Southern attempt to paint Confederate leaders as honorable and chivalrous, fighting for tradition, and it was all a big pile of bologna. Why the United States didn’t stamp this rebellion out completely once the Confederacy surrendered, I guess we’ll never know. Here are some quotes from Confederate leaders regarding their reason for seceding:
South Carolina’s Reason: “…A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.”
Mississippi’s Reason: “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. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…”
Louisiana’s Reason: “As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.”
Alabama’s Reason: “Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.”
Texas Reasoning: “…in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states….”
(Quotes pulled from The Atlantic.)
Any person claiming the cause of the Civil War wasn’t slavery, when the seceding states very plainly stated that it was, is either completely ignorant or they are blatant liars still trying to sew the revisionist history of the Southern Lost Cause.
In the end, do I think that the Confederate flag should be made illegal? For private citizens? No. Not at all. Let them fly it. It identifies the racists in our midst and helps us to avoid them. But I also don’t believe businesses should be required to sell it anymore than they should be required to sell Nazi paraphernalia. I also most definitely believe it should not be flown on any government property. If it is a states flag, it needs to be changed, because, as I’ve stated, it is the flag of a traitorous nation that attempted to undermine American values, and it is a symbol of hatred, oppression, and racism. No amount of revisionism will change that fact.