It’s Long Past Time To Abandon The Confederate Flag

The murders in Charleston have revived a debate that should have been over a long time ago.

Confederate Flag South Carolina

In the wake of Wednesday night’s massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and because it occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, arguably the birthplace of the Confederacy and secession, attention has been turned to the long-standing issue of the Confederate Battle Flag, especially given the fact that the flag that flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia has not been lowered to half-staff like both the American and South Carolina flags have:

In solemn tribute to the nine people gunned down at a Charleston church, two flags atop the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, were lowered to half-staff on Thursday. They will stay there for nine days in honor of each victim.

But in a bewildering display, a Confederate flag on statehouse grounds is still flying high. It wasn’t an oversight. It’s because of state law.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has jurisdiction over how and when state flags fly — but the Confederate flag is under the authority of the state’s General Assembly, lawmakers told NBC News. It can’t be changed in any way without a sign-off from the General Assembly.

The flag — as well as other historically named icons and places — is legally protected under the 2000 South Carolina Heritage Act. The rebel banner continues to draw criticism from South Carolinians who say it keeps the symbol of slavery and the Civil War alive.

Haley while she was campaigning for governor last year said she there was no need to take down the Confederate flag. She addressed the controversy Friday on CBS This Morning, saying that she hopes a conversation can be started again with “thoughtful words to be exchanged.”

“I think the state will start talking about that again, and we’ll see where it goes,” Haley said.

Her office didn’t immediately respond to NBC News for further comment.

South Carolina isn’t the only state where you can find the Confederate Flag, of course. It’s prevalent all over most of the states of the defeated Confederacy and in plenty of places in the North as well. The State Capitol in Columbia, though, is one of the few places left where you can find it flying at an official public building. Many states in the South have removed it, albeit after national controversy in many cases, and when he was Governor of Florida Jeb Bush had the flag taken down and placed in a museum. In Mississippi, you can find a representation of the flag on the official State Flag itself, something that was actually endorsed with nearly 65% of the vote in a 2001 referendum of Mississippi voters. Because of the attack in Charleston, though, and because of South Carolina’s place in history, the flag has become an issue in the last two days, especially given the sight of that flag flying at full mast while the American and South Carolina flags fly at half mast.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the political leadership in South Carolina has waffled on this issue. Senator Lindsey Graham said that the flag is part of who South Carolinians are, whatever that means. Congressman Mark Sanford, whose district includes most of Charleston including the area where the church that was attacked is, waffled on the question of the flag by calling it an “intense debate,” which is of course blindingly obvious. Governor Nikki Haley, meanwhile, has said that at the least the shootings in Charleston should reopen the debate on the flag, which is more than any other Republican in South Carolina is saying.

On a practical level, I am told that the Confederate Flag flying in Columbia cannot be lowered to half-staff because it isn’t designed that way. Even if that’s not true, though, it strikes me that lowering that flag “in honor” of people who were killed by a racist terrorist who targeted them because of their race completely misses the point. The flag itself is an insult, to them, to African-Americans, and to the men who died to preserve the Union, and Ta-Nehisi Coates gets it absolutely right when he says that it needs to come down:

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it.

(…)

Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.

(…)

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.

Take down the flag. Take it down now.

Inevitably, there will come a point when the debate about the Confederate flag, or the Civil War in general, will reach the point where defenders will argue that the flag is merely part of a “culture” and “heritage” that doesn’t really have anything to do with racism or slavery. The reality, though, is that this is exactly what the Confederacy was all about. As Coates notes, when the Confederacy was first founded, Alexander Stephens, who would soon become the nasceant nation’s Vice-President, delivered what came to be known as the “Cornerstone Speech” in which he made clear what the new nation was all about:

Our new is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

The Confederacy, in other words, was founded on the principle that blacks are inherently unequal to whites, that slavery was a good thing, and that it should be defended and expanded into new territories. In addition to that fact about the government that Stephens helped established, though, there lies the fact that, in the decades after the Civil War, and most especially during the Civil Rights Era, that flag became the symbol of resistance, preservation of Jim Crow, and of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. It is, as Jonathan Capehart noted back in 2012, a symbol deeply offensive to African-Americans in general, and especially those who have living memory of that era.The heritage arguments that the defenders of the flag raise are, in the end, nothing but utter nonsense not the least because there is nothing about the heritage that banner represents that ought to be honored or remembered in a positive light.

Coates is right. The flag in Columbia should come down. Additionally, the people of Mississippi need to wake up and fix their state flag, although considering that they only finally ratified the 13th Amendment two years ago, I’m not sure how soon that would happen. More broadly, people in the South and across the nation need to see that banner for what it is and to recognize that, in the end, the Confederate Battle Flag is no different from the Nazi Swastika. Others may have their own idea, but to my mind the best thing to be done with it is to burn it.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Pete S says:

    May 10, 1865 would have been the right time to abandon the Confederate Flag.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I concur that the flag should be retired from any official usage of this sort, certainly to include being flown over the capitol building or being included in the state flag. I would make allowance for its display in historical context such as if Texas or Florida wanted to fly all of the past flags that represent their state history.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    It’s a symbol of treason as well.

    Does work as a good signalling system to identify people I think should be dumped in Somalia with a tent, a herd of goats, and as many rifles as they can carry.

  4. teve tory says:

    Best post you ever wrote Doug.

  5. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Hmmm… What a novel idea and perspective.

    Clearly, rushing into things would be ill advised. It has only been 150 years since the war of northern aggression was fought. Those involved yet defeated must be supported in their re-integration to society.

    I suggest that we find those war veterans, give them a welcome home event, and ensure that they all realize that they are a welcome part of American society.

    Wait… what?

    You say that there are no more veterans? And that we are generations beyond the war?

    Well, what the he11 are we waiting for? Get rid of that thing!

    … morons.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Well written, Doug. Very well-written indeed.

    The swastika, the hammer and sickle and the Confederate flag are symbols of oppression, inhumanity and murder. The people who fly those symbols know full well the message they are sending. They intend the flag to intimidate, they intend it to remind blacks of their “inferior” status, they deliberately identify with white supremacy, that’s the “heritage” they mean, however much they lie about it.

  7. reid says:

    The pride in the confederate flag must also surely be tied to the divisive campaign the right has been waging for decades. Giving up the flag would be a loss for the hard-working, decent, “real americans” red team against the socialist, liberal, northern, elitist, city-folk blue team. Can’t have that!

  8. Cd6 says:

    Great post Doug

  9. grumpy realist says:

    Good article in the Washington Post on this topic.

  10. @James Joyner:

    That’s fair. I think that falls within what Governor Bush did in Florida.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    That flag is a deliberate insult and threat to Blacks, who are 28% of the population of SC. And Republicans can’t figure out why Blacks vote Democratic.

    I’m sure there are Cat tractors, cherry picker trucks, and oxy-acetylene torches available in Columbia. Whatever the design, that thing could be down yet this evening. It is decency and courage that are missing, not the means.

  12. MikeSJ says:

    I can’t help but think that the Union screwed the pooch after the war was over. They never should have allowed this flag to still fly. We certainly didn’t allow the Nazi flag to be flown after WWII.

    I know it’s Monday morning quarterbacking but we should have started by hanging Jefferson Davis and the all of the politicians of the Confederacy…and then we should have reconfigured the states themselves.

    Redraw all of their borders, move the state capitals and rename everything.

    Georgia could have been named Grant. Alabama could be called Lincoln. North Carolina? I’d rename it Sherman. South Carolina? William…and I’d name another state Tecumseh.

    If only.

  13. Tyrell says:

    There are many town squares and parks everywhere around here that have Confederate memorial monuments that have been there since the 1800’s, and those sometimes have the Southern army battle flag etched into the stone.
    I have also seen the flag on the grave stones of many soldiers as I walk through the various cemeteries in the south. These would have to remain. Of course, any new regulations about this should apply only to government buildings, not private property, businesses, souvenir shops, race tracks, museums, or battlefields.
    The state capitol in Columbia, SC actually has holes in the exterior walls from when General Sherman came down here tearing up everything. But Sherman was a great general.
    I don’t know how this seems to be moving into another debate about the Civil War. Having been raised on Civil War history, tours, and stories from people, I would love to discuss various views and aspects of the battles and generals, but I don’t think that this tragic event has anything to do with the War or the flag.
    At one time the flag was very common around here: car tags, bumper stickers, mantle pieces, beach towels, and yard flags. But that was decades ago. I did not hear anything one way or the other from anyone. They are still seen sometimes, usually at local sports events or on July 4. But it is obvious they are fading away.
    The main thing here is a disturbed individual who murdered a lot of innocent people, not a flag that few see or notice.

  14. Kylopod says:

    I see a parallel here with the Indiana “religious freedom” law. Conservatives are no longer content to say they oppose same-sex marriage; instead they say they “support religious freedom.” Similarly, defending the Confederate Flag isn’t about white supremacy, it’s about “heritage.” The possibility that one’s particular religious belief or heritage may be odious isn’t even considered, since the very use of these words is a device to avoid having to openly defend the thing in question, instead preferring to mask it under a term with vaguely positive connotations.

    It really is amazing, historically, to see how bigots always prefer to hide their true beliefs under euphemisms and code words. In the 19th century, Europeans who hated Jews decided to start calling themselves “anti-Semites” because they thought it sounded more sophisticated than “Jew haters.” A century later, their heirs would say they didn’t oppose Jews but “Zionists.”

    In America, the defenders of segregation, lynching and terror under Jim Crow claimed they were merely standing up for “states’ rights.” Conservatives in the 1960s spoke about “law and order.” White nationalist groups today claim they are not anti-black but “pro-European.”

    You know there’s something wrong with someone’s viewpoint when even they can’t admit what they believe.

  15. Davebo says:

    The main thing here is a disturbed individual who murdered a lot of innocent people, not a flag that few see or notice.

    Few see or notice? What? They don’t look up in Columbia?? Everyone just walks around staring at the ground?

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    I have sometimes wondered if we didn’t make a mistake by not letting them succeed. Of course that would have resulted in a 3rd world country on our southern border..

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @MikeSJ:

    I think that’s both 20/20 hindsight and correct.

  18. MikeSJ says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    I have sometimes wondered if we didn’t make a mistake by not letting them succeed. Of course that would have resulted in a 3rd world country on our southern border..

    Intellectually I know this is a terrible idea but I do think this more and more.

    So many of our problems…health care; taxes; unnecessary war… are a result of the ghost of the confederacy refusing to pass on.

  19. @MikeSJ:

    I can’t help but think that the Union screwed the pooch after the war was over. They never should have allowed this flag to still fly. We certainly didn’t allow the Nazi flag to be flown after WWII.

    The Union didn’t allow the confederate flag to fly after the war. Flying the confederate flag didn’t become a common thing in the south until the 1960s, when southern states started passing laws to do so as a way of expressing their opposition to the civil rights movement.

  20. David Weintraub says:

    @Kylopod: This. Exactly this. People who hide behind these memes are cowards through and through.

  21. Mr. Prosser says:

    At times I have to go back and read Annotated Rant dated November 3, 2004.

  22. Dumb Brit says:

    Doug,
    I agree entirely with your well written post today, but am somewhat confused that a couple of days ago you thought the enlightened liberal government down in Texas, via the Supreme Court, was wrong to refuse the right to issue Confederate Number Plates. https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/supreme-court-says-texas-can-ban-confederate-license-plates-endangering-freedom-of-speech. I suppose my question is:
    Is the First Amendment more important than whether or not some people might be offended by a Nazi Swastika on a number plate?

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Dumb Brit:
    Doug is somewhat handicapped by virtue of having attended law school. The license plate was a legal issue, this is a moral one. Doug (like all lawyers) likes to keep his law and his morality separate.

  24. aFloridian says:

    More broadly, people in the South and across the nation need to see that banner for what it is and to recognize that, in the end, the Confederate Battle Flag is no different from the Nazi Swastika.

    The swastika, the hammer and sickle and the Confederate flag are symbols of oppression, inhumanity and murder.

    I won’t make any argument that the Confederate battle flag doesn’t represent these things to some people to some degree. But as a Southerner of course it rubs me wrong when I see an anti-South Yankee like Doug comparing the flag some of my ancestors fought under to the symbol of the Nazis, who reached a level of inhumanity in another universe from the sins of the South. The comparison is false. And I see more and more liberals arguing the only two movements whose evil is undeniable are the Nazis and Confederates.

    First, plenty of groups reached levels of evil greater than the Confederates (Soviets, Cambodians, and on and on) and I imagine one could even parse the motivations of many Germans to find some humanity there. Even so, slavery (a sin borne by all cultures and colors, even a paradise like New Jersey) and genocide are indefensible. But to compare the wrongdoing of the American South with that of the Nazis, virtually unrivaled in their depravity? I won’t do it.

    The people who fly those symbols know full well the message they are sending. They intend the flag to intimidate, they intend it to remind blacks of their “inferior” status, they deliberately identify with white supremacy, that’s the “heritage” they mean, however much they lie about it.

    You are so wrong about this Michael. It’s way more complicated than that. As Southerners we are raised being told the war was about state’s rights and the boys in grey were by-and-large poor farmers, non-slaveholders fighting for their region. There’s a truth to that latter statement, but of course it conveniently ignores the defense of white supremacy and Southern political power. So most of us start out with some false understanding of our history. Some of us get educated and see things differently, as I did, never having been interested in self-delusion, but we definitely have a Southern pride, because we are so different from other Americans and so misunderstood. Of course the modern South is stratified between native, cultural Southerners and the descendants of transplants who generally don’t possess the culture. It’s amazing how, even in the professional world, there is a kinship that draws us to each other as countrymen.

    Either way, the flag is still very common here in some quarters. And yeah, lots of ignorant racist rednecks fly it and spout off about state’s rights. Lots of educated folks say the same crap. And then on the other side are plenty of well-meaning people who treat blacks just the same as whites in their daily life and are well-meaning folks – maybe they are history buffs; Lost Cause believers (the nicer kind that are just wistful for hoop skirts and big houses); and most just intend to represent the pride and defiance of coming from a culturally unique region derided and despised by the rest of the nation. It’s some mix of willful blindness and a lack of self-awareness. Not innocents, but not skinheads.

    I myself had a Confederate flag license plate on my first truck as a teen and had the flag in my first college dorm. Like many of my friends, it was “cool” and a symbol of regional pride – I have always said I’m thankful for my Southern identity – the “standard white male” as imagined in contemporary culture and depicted in TV and the movies is a milquetoast, boring, weak, maybe even effeminate, and certainly “uncool” – being Southern gives us a very different identity, one that is robust, manly, proud, tough – it’s bogus both ways on an individual level, but it still impacts individual identity.

    I started seeing the war for what it was pretty early on (most definitely not “just state’s rights”) but I only stopped displaying the flag when my black wife moved in, as she was taught to dislike and distrust the flag. There are good reasons not to force a flag that offends many people onto state property. Blacks are Southerners too, and the flag represents something very different to them, especially Jim Crow violence. They should not have to see the flag flying on public property, generally, although I think one of the flags should be allowed at memorials, cemeteries, and other historical public sites. I still have it folded up somewhere. But that’s all to say, here on the ground, the South continues to be more complex than outsiders realize.

    That all said, I do wonder if Southerners will eventually considering sidestepping the controversy and adopting another flag. My thinking would be the Stars and Bars or the Bonnie Blue Flag. I’ve considered getting a copy of the latter, which also happens to have a Florida connection. I admit I got a wry chuckle out of the controversy over the Georgia Flag where they dropped the battle flag only to end up with an approximation of the Stars and Bars, I’m assuming was possible because people don’t know their history.

  25. stonetools says:

    Great post, Doug. Let me add:

    There is really no difference between the Nazi flag and Confederate battle flag.
    Heritage? Which country has more heritage than the nation and culture who if they didn’t invent, at least perfected “classical” music? Who largely invented modern physics and modern philosophy? Who now dominate the European economy?
    Valor? The Germans fought so hard and so well in WW2 that it took the world’s three biggest countries to beat them.The South had Lee, Forrest, and Longstreet: the Germans had von Rundstedt, Guderian, and Rommel. So both had their military heroes.

    The difference is that the Germans decisively turned their backs on Nazism ( helped by the victors and the Nuremberg trials). The South have embraced their Confederate ideology (again, helped by the victors who turned a blind eye to the South after 1876). The Lost Cause doctrine (which dominated history departments till the 1960s), best selling novels like the Klansmen and Gone With the Wind ( which became bestselling movies), and of course the Confederate flag.
    Then Lost Cause doctrine has been debunked and mythology of the antebellum South depicted in Gone with the Wind and such novels has been replaced by such TV series as Roots and Ken Burns The Civil War, and movies such as 12 years a Slave.

    The Confederate flag is the last remnant of an overarching ideology of white supremacy that has been completely discredited. Let’s get rid of it, everywhere it’s officially ensconced.

  26. Cal American says:

    The Al-Qaeda 1860 flag needs to go. It was and is a flag of terror. It is the heritage flag of terrorists.

  27. stonetools says:

    @aFloridian:

    I’m African American ( although born in Jamaica). I love gumbo,and Southern cooking of all sorts. I love jazz, blues, and modern bluegrass and Americana.I like bourbon. I’m reading a Civil War novel right now ( Blaze of Glory, by Jeff Shaara).And I live in Virginia ( although the Yankee part of Virginia)

    It’s quite possible to love Southern culture and history, but to also reject Southern white supremacist ideology, and its symbols.

  28. Lynn Eggers says:

    My great uncles rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    No, I’m not proud of that, but I value many of the same things that Stonetools does … especially the jazz and my cousin Dr. Tom, who played a mean clarinet.

  29. Tyrell says:

    @Kylopod: But there is a southern heritage, way of life, and culture that I and many others am proud of. To be sure there are many things to be ashamed of and many mistakes were made along the way. Most southern people were not slave owners. Most southerners oppose racism.
    We remember and honor those southern leaders who helped make this country great. We work and seek to preserve the things that have made the south a great place to live.
    This horrible crime is not caused by a flag, song, or symbols. It is caused by a person who wanted to kill others. It is caused by evil.

  30. winfield scott says:

    @gVOR08: The problem is that all the Cat tractors in SC have confederate battle flag decals.

  31. Scott F. says:

    @Kylopod:

    The rhetoric on religious freedom is fundamentally the same. From Stephens’ “cornerstone” speech:

    The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else.

  32. Lynn Eggers says:

    @Tyrell: “This horrible crime is not caused by a flag, song, or symbols. It is caused by a person who wanted to kill others. It is caused by evil.”

    No, it was not “caused” by those things, but those things contributed to an atmosphere that fostered the killer’s thoughts and feelings.

  33. Donald Sensing says:

    I have ancestors who fought on both sides. In fact, my maternal grandfather’s grandfather, CSA, has the singular distinction of being the only American POW ever busted out of POW camp by his wife. He was never recaptured.

    On my dad’s side a g-g grandfather, a cavalry officer of the 16th Penn., got his leg shot off at Chancellorsville. He went on to become a physician.

    I agree the flag should come down from state-owned property. But I have a serious objection to this post:

    In none of the news coverage of the massacre have I heard a mention that Roof was inspired by the Confederacy generally or that he ever displayed the battle flag. His infamous Facebook photo shows him wearing not a CSA flag but patches of the now-defunct apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia.

    So exactly what is his tie-in to the Confederacy? If someone has that info, please post with citation.

    That the massacre may present a valid opportunity to discuss (or even denounce) the display of the flag by the SC government may be a valid point. I sure won’t dispute that. But to paint the whole South with Roof’s maniacal blood lust is offensive, too. One need only note the photos from Charleston of blacks and whites coming together for prayer and community grieving – which pointedly did not occur in the Union-heritage cities of Boston and Ferguson or New York. It is there that racial divisions are most pronounced and most violent.

    And yet in no news coverage of the riots and killings that have occurred there is the North’s endemic racism – which is instantly recognized clearly by any Southerner, black or white, who visits – even mentioned.

    Yes, the flag should come tomorrow. But in so insisting, those who do might serve well by looking deeply into their own souls, too.

  34. Donald Sensing says:
  35. wr says:

    @Donald Sensing: “So exactly what is his tie-in to the Confederacy? If someone has that info, please post with citation.”

    Well, there’s the now omnipresent photo of him sitting on the hood of his car, which has CSA plates…

  36. Matt says:
  37. Surreal American says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I take it you are now aware of the photo of Dylann Roof sitting on the car with the C.S.A. vanity plate.

    Your response, genius?

  38. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @aFloridian:

    the Nazis, who reached a level of inhumanity in another universe from the sins of the South.

    You’re exactly correct. What the Nazis did, they did over the course of roughly 12 to 15 years. The evil that was slavery / white supremacy / Jim Crow persisted in this country for closer to 300 years. .

    It’s not even in the same universe.

    “Heritage, not hate”, my lily white ass. I think they meant to say heritage OF hate.

  39. An Interested Party says:

    I’m curious why equating the Confederacy with Nazi Germany is so offensive…in both cases, certain groups of people were treated as subhumans…in both cases our country was directly threatened…hell, the Confederacy was composed of traitors, no better than Benedict Arnold or Jonathan Pollard…perhaps this Southern pride wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t based on a vile history of racism and treason…

  40. David M says:

    Is there a meaningful difference between the flags of Rhodesia, Apartheid South Africa or the Confederate States?

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @aFloridian:

    As Southerners we are raised being told the war was about state’s rights and the boys in grey were by-and-large poor farmers, non-slaveholders fighting for their region.

    I grew up mostly in the south – Virginia, the Florida panhandle, and I’ve lived in Texas, Louisana and Tennessee – and as a kid I took classes in Virginia history that called it the war of Northern aggression. So I know the bullsh!t, believe me I’ve read it all, heard it all, and bullsh!t’s all it is.

    I never saw a Confederate flag in the south as a kid in the early 60’s. No one even the damned thing until the late 60’s onward and they did it as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement. It was a symbol of rejection. It was and is a symbol of white supremacy. It represents evil.

  42. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @MikeSJ: I’m not (much of) one for hanging but I LOVE the other ideas.

  43. MBunge says:

    @aFloridian: the pride and defiance of coming from a culturally unique region derided and despised by the rest of the nation.

    I think THIS is what is wrong with Southern culture. More than race, poverty, education or feudal attitudes.

    There are prejudices and stereotypes about the Midwest, about California, about New York, about Boston, about Portland and about everywhere else in America. No one obsesses about the prejudices against them and fetishizes their insecurity like Southerners, and so any criticism or call for change and improvement is felt to be an attack on this nebulous concept of “what the South is really like.”

    There’s as much negativity toward Texas as the rest of the South but you rarely hear or read of Texans whining about it.

    Mike

  44. Scott says:

    That all said, I do wonder if Southerners will eventually considering sidestepping the controversy and adopting another flag.

    How about adopting the Stars and Stripes?

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @aFloridian: You worked really hard to say that the Confederacy was not a morally bankrupt union from the moment of it’s formation to it’s demise and that the people who fly that flag to this day are proud of of of…..

    Reality knocking… Anybody home? Any one?

    Never mind.

  46. gVOR08 says:

    @aFloridian: Symbols mean what they mean to the people who see them, not whatever the person displaying them wishes they mean.

  47. stonetools says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I sure won’t dispute that. But to paint the whole South with Roof’s maniacal blood lust is offensive, too

    Straw man. Look, the research has been done. The South is more racist that the rest of the nation. (The rest of the nation is still racist. The South is just more so).
    This is not surprising. The South was set up from the beginning as a racial caste society, based on black slave labor-at least the Deep South, starting with South Carolina. The South has just much further to go with overcoming racism , since racism was baked into the Southern cake in a way it wasn’t in the North.
    As to where Roof got his ideas, the most likely source is his family and friends, all of which are swimming in Southern culture the way fish swim in the ocean and are absorbing ideas and assumptions about race that they may not even be fully aware of. This starts a slow-building fire, which is fanned by right wing propaganda blaming all that’s bad on the Kenyan Muslim n!&&3r in the White House. It leads to an explosion enabled by loose gun laws which allows a fired up racist to easily get a gun and act out his fantasy-which is how we ended up here.

  48. Lynn Eggers says:

    @Donald Sensing: “I have ancestors who fought on both sides.”

    The joke in my family is that, at the Battle of Chickamauga, my great grandfather on my mother’s side shot the man that my great grandfather on my father’s side paid to go to war for him.

    There is no truth in any of it, of course, though my father’s WI family did fight for the Union.

  49. Grewgills says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Flying the confederate flag didn’t become a common thing in the south until the 1960s, when southern states started passing laws to do so as a way of expressing their opposition to the civil rights movement.

    That is the root of it right there. The confederate flag on state houses and on state flags is a purposeful and direct statement against the equality of African Americans. It wasn’t and isn’t a piece of continuing history it is a deliberately racist statement in those contexts. For some individuals it is just a symptom of unexamined privilege and a poor understanding of history, but that isn’t something people should be defending either.

  50. aFloridian says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:@HarvardLaw92:

    To these two replies, I don’t understand where I ever claimed “heritage not hate” is valid, nor did I apologize for the Confederacy or its symbols. The only valid point against me there is towards the end where I mention other Southern/Confederate symbols, but that was a hypothetical, I’m not rushing out to get a Stars and Bars.

    I DID act as something of an apologist for the bulk of Southern people who exhibit the flag. You liberals are showing the same lack of perspective conservatives so often show towards blacks. My point was to explain that, to a great degree, the people know not what they do when they fly the flag. Look at it from their view, as I explained it above. Some do know, sure, but I was trying to explain to you how different the perspective is down here. And right or wrong (many Southerners hold wrongheaded self-reverential views about the war) the point is it’s not generally intended to be received the way it is by outsiders and Black Americans. It’s the latter group I care about the most. We should respect the controversial nature of the flag and the negative view held by our fellow Southerners and stop using it so much outside a historical context.

    But for many folks, especially those who are not educated like most of us at OTB are, the flag is seen as an innocuous symbol, used for beach towels and Hank Williams Jr. flags (ugh). That’s not to say these people don’t have prejudice, but it’s the sort of low prejudice that comes with ignorance and Fox News manipulation, not the intellectual calculating hatred of a true Stormfront white supremacist. Their lack of awareness is the same type you are exhibiting if you condemn these people for being anything other than ignorant.

    @michael reynolds:

    You have some personal experience, including in my own Panhandle. So we agree it’s BS, but do you then see why I make apologies for the people steeped in this false mythology who lack the experience, education, and empathy to see why the flag is offensive to many? I am not denying there are plenty who are well aware of its confrontational white supremacist symbolism, but it seemed like you were painting with a broad brush.

    @stonetools:

    It’s quite possible to love Southern culture and history, but to also reject Southern white supremacist ideology, and its symbols

    .

    I agree completely. I would hope that you didn’t intend this comment as a refutation of my own post. My essential point was that many Southerners aren’t really conscious enough that the flag is so strongly associated with white supremacy. It’s a flaw for sure, but I just felt they were all being painted as open white supremacists when many are really guilty only of ignorance and myopathy. I continue to love Southern culture, and while it’s hard to shake the Lost Cause romance many of us are brought up in, my own personal experiences and education have helped me do so. I like to think one of my strengths is that I always attempt to face the truth of things to the best of my ability, whether it’s pleasant or not.

    That means I am certainly aware of my own biases. I think I’m fortunate (or unfortunate) to be in a rather unique situation as a person who grew up underprivileged and white, and therefore definitely got a dose of Lost Cause, displaying the CBF as I said before, but then also met an African-American woman who grew up poor in the South AND then I got a much better education than most of my ilk. I think I have a pretty nuanced view of things, but of course I’m affected by my experiences like anybody.

    I also think it’s interesting you mention your Jamaican heritage. There seems to be a real divide to me between post-slavery black immigrants and “native” African-Americans. At least in Florida, it seems like most of the successful blacks I meet in my professional world are the children of these immigrants. Is it because they are unencumbered with the legacy of American slavery? It seems to me that families like my wife’s from the Deep South for hundreds of years feel the burden very differently, and are worse for it. Maybe they expect less because they know the obstacles they face? That said, I understand the Caribbean was no cake walk.

    @MBunge:

    This is probably true. It’s a good point really. For domestic political and cultural reasons the South has maintained a sort of siege mentality since the earliest days of the Republic, encouraging an insular and defiant people. An all-around “us vs. them” mentality was probably necessary for the political capital to remain in the hands of the privileged few who used demagoguery to manipulate Southern white poor.

  51. aFloridian says:

    @gVOR08:

    Symbols mean what they mean to the people who see them, not whatever the person displaying them wishes they mean.

    Yeah, exactly. And people often interpret symbols differently. An Israeli flag conveys a very different meaning to an evangelical in Dallas than it does to a Palestinian in a Lebanese refugee camp. There’s no clear right or wrong, it’s subjective.

    And I think my earlier acknowledged the legitimacy and reality of the very different, and offensive, symbolic power of the CBF to black Americans.

  52. Mikey says:

    @aFloridian:

    But for many folks, especially those who are not educated like most of us at OTB are, the flag is seen as an innocuous symbol, used for beach towels and Hank Williams Jr. flags (ugh). That’s not to say these people don’t have prejudice, but it’s the sort of low prejudice that comes with ignorance and Fox News manipulation, not the intellectual calculating hatred of a true Stormfront white supremacist. Their lack of awareness is the same type you are exhibiting if you condemn these people for being anything other than ignorant.

    i understand exactly what you mean, but at this point in American history this can’t be put down to anything besides willful ignorance. Any Southerner–any AMERICAN–who sees that flag as an “innocuous symbol” is choosing to, because deep down everyone knows what it actually stands for. Some people just choose to paper over the truth with shallow platitudes about “our heritage” or “a symbol of freedom” or whatever. It’s not a symbol of freedom, its a symbol of enslavement and of those who would rather have died than live in a country where blacks are equal citizens.

    It’s 2015. We either know better, or we should but have decided not to.

    (None of the above is directed at you personally–I understood from your original comment that you were talking about how some other Southerners think.)

  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @aFloridian:

    You liberals are showing the same lack of perspective conservatives so often show towards blacks.

    Wow. That is a literally insane thing to write.

    Learn some shame, man.

  54. michael reynolds says:

    @aFloridian:

    I tend to be impatient with people who cannot see that 2+3=5. I expect people to rationally assess the world around them and act reasonably. Granted I spend most of my life being disappointed, or in many cases gratified but many years later than necessary. Rootless, traditionless creature that I am I’m always surprised there’s such a time gap between 2+3=5 and the slow acceptance of the obvious corollary that 3+2 also equals 5.

    No doubt some few white people in the south actually don’t see that the flag is an offensive symbol of evil. But they’re idiots. It’s 2015, the issue has been on the table for a long time, and by this stage anyone not getting it is either deliberately not getting it or suffering from a learning disability of some severity.

    Even Mitt Romney wants the flag to come down.

    Take the swastika down. Remove the swastika from state flags. Understand that people still flying the swastika or using swastika iconography are Nazis. Now substitute Confederate flag for swastika and. . . well, ‘Nazis’ still works.

  55. KM says:

    @An Interested Party says:

    I’m curious why equating the Confederacy with Nazi Germany is so offensive…

    It’s called Casting Off Reflected Failure (CORF). Here’s how the thought process goes:
    – X is bad. In this case, Nazis
    – Somebody just said Y (the Confederacy) is as bad as X (the Nazis) and provided a statement I can’t easily refute. This statement may turn out to have some validity
    – I am related to Y (the Confederacy) by family/ location/ culture / ideology / opinion/ choice
    – Therefore, if they are bad, I am somehow tainted by their “badness” rather then by my own actions/ beliefs/ words. This means I am BAD.
    – This cannot be since I am awesome so I immediately lash out and refute the claim by making a personal anecdote to invoke the No True Scotsman fallacy / Not All Men fallacy / We’re Not Like That or Them at All! No real evidence is given to refute the claim but distance is created between the general claim and the speaker to reclaim face.

    You see this in the almost knee-jerk personalized responses to general criticisms. Talks about the legacy of slavery invariable lead to someone saying “I never owned a slave!” A good non-racial example of this was my family watching the History Channel and something on the 60’s. My youngest cousin commented that they certainly did a lot of drugs back in the day and are total hypocrites for nagging at Millennials. My mother immediately stated she’s never done drugs in her life. My cousin turned and said “Who’s talking about you? I meant the people in the footage and any children they might have had! Are you in this documentary?” People just plain don’t like being associated with negativity and will go to lengths to defend what they see as a personal attack on something they associate with themselves.

  56. al-Ameda says:

    @Pete S:

    May 10, 1865 would have been the right time to abandon the Confederate Flag.

    I would “Like” or uproot your comment a thousand times if that was possible.

    Also, we know that the Confederate Flag “reappeared” forcefully in the 1960s when the Civil Rights revolution was well underway.

  57. Tillman says:

    @MBunge: yeah, no one fetishizes their insecurities like Southerners. That’s why Northerners constantly abuse themselves over how much they eff’d up Reconstruction when it got hard.

    No, wait, I’m reading more crap about letting the South go or redrawing state boundaries and renaming everything after Northern generals.

  58. Liberal Capitalist says:

    STOP IT !

    To those who are saying there is no link between the confederate battle flag, racism and the recent actions…

    JUST STOP IT !

    Here.

    Here is South Carolina’s favorite son, surrounding himself in Confederate history, picture with flags, waving flags, and burning the flag of these United States.

    http://gawker.com/dylann-roofs-white-supremacist-self-portraiture-1712788828

    Save me the story that it is history, or that it is not symbolic of hate.

    Just stop.

    It is a rallying point for the ignorant, the hateful and the racists.

    We should march to the state house of South Carolina and tear it down.

  59. Tillman says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s 2015. We either know better, or we should but have decided not to.

    Bullshit. There’s no bias towards progress. That’s just a convenient lie we like to tell ourselves to excuse us from taking action. It’s a warped mirror of the conservative fantasy that everyone can succeed in life by pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps: “I have achieved this education and enlightenment, there is no barrier to such for anyone else who seeks it, all those who remain ignorant do so to keep their comfortable prejudices.” Dylann Roof had access to the Internet and Wikipedia, the common tools of enlightenment. He googled “black on white crime” and was educated further into his insane views on race and history.

    Progress takes work. Not just on the part of people wanting the truth, but people willing to show them the truth.

  60. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: To expand on this particular gripe of mine concerning sanctimonious “Northerners” confident in their histories, it’s worth noting the North, through what can best be described as accidents of economics and geography, didn’t embrace chattel slavery to the extent of the South. There’s no moral superiority to be had. Even now, capitalism seeks out the cheapest labor to churn out its ever-needed supply of products. If slavery (God forbid) was still a viable institution in this country (because, let’s make no mistake, we’re still the beneficiaries of slavery to this day in the constant search for the lowest possible prices for our products), you can imagine the kinds of people who would defend it whole-cloth, and they would look, sound, and dress like us.

    I’m not defending the South. Others have already done that. I’m just sick of this constant self-righteous bullshit I keep hearing from ignorant people about the intrinsic evil of the Southerner. Hubris born of historical accident is the hardest, it seems, to overcome. We can wrap our minds, as liberals, around the idea that some are disadvantaged through the accident of birth to lower-class parents, but extending such thinking to our moral attitudes about history seems beyond our collective intellect.

  61. grumpy realist says:

    @Donald Sensing: They’ve found pictures of Roof displaying the Confederate flag while burning the U.S. flag.

    Or did you really not know that?

  62. Mikey says:

    @Tillman: I couldn’t disagree more. The fact of what the Confederate flag stands for is indisputable historical fact, proven by the words and writings of those who created the Confederacy. It’s been known for 150 years what that flag stands for.

    And there have been “people willing to show them the truth” for years upon years. We’ve been speaking and writing about this for decades. It doesn’t take any particular sort of “enlightenment” to understand such a basic piece of American history. And yet we still get Dylann Roof and a whole bunch of conservatives who are flipping tables because people are demanding the Confederate flag come down from outside the South Carolina statehouse.

    I’m not so “sanctimonious” that I don’t understand how difficult it can be to put aside cherished beliefs and deal with the pain of cognitive dissonance. But this shit is killing people and has been for 150 years and that damned flag is a symbol of it.

  63. Tillman says:

    @Mikey:

    And there have been “people willing to show them the truth” for years upon years. We’ve been speaking and writing about this for decades. It doesn’t take any particular sort of “enlightenment” to understand such a basic piece of American history. And yet we still get Dylann Roof and a whole bunch of conservatives who are flipping tables because people are demanding the Confederate flag come down from outside the South Carolina statehouse.

    Then obviously the effort of the educator wasn’t up to the task at hand! Or do we always agree with the teacher who says of her students they refuse to be educated, so screw them?

    I perfectly agree with you on the flag and the deaths and terror it has had a hand in. I’m really ranting about this idea that since we’ve reached a point in time, after so much blood and sweat, they should really know better. The advance of civilization doesn’t mean progress, it means both progress and entrenchment. What isn’t attacked at one point becomes conventional wisdom, and must be attacked later. We can’t attack everything wrong all the time because we become exhausted, but to turn that around on those who promote wrong as being ignorant and unable to lift themselves up out of ignorance ignores our lack of effort (our inability) to redress every wrong we can, and turns it into their vice. Like we don’t display similar vices in other, less consequential (to us) areas of life.

  64. Mikey says:

    @Tillman:

    I’m not arguing from the viewpoint of “progress always points forward,” I’m too old to think that’s the case…LOL…but I seriously do believe at this point in American history the truth about what the Confederate flag stands for has been so repeatedly stated that anyone who doesn’t accept it has chosen not to. This isn’t an issue with a lot of nuance, it doesn’t even take a particularly deep understanding of American history to know what it’s about.

    At this point, though, it’s not about knowledge anymore, it’s about tribal identification, and it’s easier to learn differential calculus than to get past that.

  65. MBunge says:

    @Tillman: yeah, no one fetishizes their insecurities like Southerners. That’s why Northerners constantly abuse themselves over how much they eff’d up Reconstruction when it got hard.

    Do you know what the word “insecurities” means?

    And could you please provide examples of Northerners mindlessly lashing out when someone says Northern political leaders screwed up Reconstruction.

    No one expects Northerners to walk around blaming themselves for policy failures of the 19th century, the way no intelligent person expects Southerners to walk around feeling guilty over horrors committed before their grandparents were born.

    No one enjoys criticism but no one whines about and irrationally rejects criticism like Southerners when someone suggests, for example, that there may still be a ways to go on race in the South.

    Mike

  66. An Interested Party says:

    …the intrinsic evil of the Southerner.

    The problem isn’t some intrinsic evil of the Southerner…the problem is the intrinsic evil of a past that so many Southerners seem to embrace…

  67. MBunge says:

    @An Interested Party: The problem is that you can’t bring any of these things up without someone whining about Southerners being called “intrinsically evil.”

    Mike

  68. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I’m curious why equating the Confederacy with Nazi Germany is so offensive…

    The Nazis have become, in our culture, the quintessential cartoon villains. In a lot of people’s imaginations, they are scarcely more subtle than Dr. Evil. The fact that these were real people, sometimes very well-educated people who lived regular lives and had no history of mental illness and went home to their wives and kids after a day of gassing Jews and saw themselves as proud Germans fulfilling their nation’s destiny, doesn’t enter into most people’s minds. It’s easier not to try comprehending them, and therefore people assume nothing else in the real world can be compared–unless of course it’s something they wish not to comprehend in real-world terms.

    Hence Ben Carson says the contemporary U.S. is like Nazi Germany, and a billionaire says the rich in this country are being treated like the Jews in Kristallnacht. The purpose of statements like these isn’t to show any true grasp of the reality of the historical events but to take comfort in the idea that the villains are easy to identify, like the black coat and hat in a Spy vs. Spy comic, and to cast that sense of obvious illegitimacy onto the things they don’t like. And when you try to bring up stuff from our own country’s past which do invite parallels with the Third Reich, the reaction is one of virulent incomprehension. How can you possibly compare the two? The Confederacy was about liberty and destiny and heritage. The Nazis were, like, the bad guys. No comparison there at all.

  69. Grewgills says:

    @Tillman:
    Entrenchment at this point means willful ignorance. Southerners holding onto the confederate flag as a symbol of ‘heritage’,or ‘states rights’, or because they like Hank Williams Jr. are either intentionally supporting the message sent from state houses in the 60s on or are willfully ignorant. There isn’t another real option at this point. The only way they cannot understand this in 2015 is to have put blinders on. Think I am sanctimonious if you like, but I was born and bred about as deep in the South as it is possible to be.

  70. Blue Galangal says:

    @Tillman:

    Bullshit. There’s no bias towards progress.

    Thank you.

  71. wr says:

    @MBunge: “The problem is that you can’t bring any of these things up without someone whining about Southerners being called “intrinsically evil.””

    Well, you guys did invent The Waffle House…

  72. Tillman says:

    @MBunge:

    And could you please provide examples of Northerners mindlessly lashing out when someone says Northern political leaders screwed up Reconstruction.

    That was my entire point: no one brings up Northern political leaders screwing up Reconstruction. They can’t mindlessly lash out if nothing is bothering them. It is essentially an academic point, the ignorance of which allows for moral vainglory whenever the bleeding from the Civil War that’s drained this country of bright men and women comes up.

    I don’t like moral vainglory. I find it repugnant. Maybe it’s because it was moral vainglory that girded Bush’s jingoism and led to our catastrophic adventure in the Middle East.

  73. Tillman says:

    @Mikey:

    I’m not arguing from the viewpoint of “progress always points forward,” I’m too old to think that’s the case…LOL…but I seriously do believe at this point in American history the truth about what the Confederate flag stands for has been so repeatedly stated that anyone who doesn’t accept it has chosen not to.

    Well sir, I have much more faith in ignorance and stupidity. 🙂