Time to Wave Bye-Bye to the Confederate Flag?

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June 24, 2015 by gregrabidoux2013

confederate flag SC

At least for one more day the Confederate Flag sits atop the SC Capitol Dome.

President Obama recently said that, “The time has come to retire the Confederate flag. The only place it belongs now is in a museum.”

Haley Barbour, former Governor of Mississippi and a prominent Republican powerbroker recently noted that “I am not at all offended by the Confederate flag.”

Mr. Obama is black. Mr. Barbour is white. The president was raised in Hawaii and will turn 54 this August. The former Governor is a native southerner, born and raised in Mississippi. He is 68.

A generation apart, a race apart, cultural upbringings that are as distant from each other as say, Honolulu is from Yazoo City (MS).

In some ways this shows the stark cleavages, the battle lines drawn across our country right now. As, we are again steeped in a national debate over just what we should or should not do with the most vivid, pronounced and arguably, hated and revered symbol of our Civil War-the Confederate Flag.

confederate flag obama

He says put the flag in a museum.

confederate flag barbour

He says he’s not at all offended by the Confederate Flag

In some ways though the Obama-Barbour divide doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how polarizing and politically potent the Confederate Flag has come to symbolize. Especially to southerners who in many ways are still struggling to come to grips with the mix of pride, shame, history, independence, righteousness and regional identity this flag, this mix of fabric, thread, lines, stars and colors evokes.

Currently, there are anti-Confederate flag rallies in South Carolina where the Governor, Nikki Haley, has urged lawmakers to have the flag banned. In Virginia, the Governor has ordered the Confederate Flag symbol be removed from all state license plates. Wal-Mart and Sears announced they will no longer stock Confederate Flags (I didn’t know they sold ’em in the first place) and E-Bay has removed all Confederate Flag items from its buy list online.

All of this and more in the wake of the massacre of 9 Black churchgoers by White Dylan Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

What we now know is that Dylan Roof became obsessed with “black on white” crime and was greatly influenced by websites sponsored by groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens. This is a White Supremacist group whose creed is that blacks are inherently evil and violent and must be stopped. Its spokesman Jared Taylor recently told the national media that every few seconds a black man is raping a white girl and that the motives of Dylan roof were understandable and not at all illegitimate.

confederate flag dylan roof

The killer who embraced White Supremacism and wanted to “ignite a new Civil War.”

Apparently, 21 year-old Dylan took his solidarity with this and like-minded groups a step or two or three further, and, as he confessed to police, he wanted his killings to “ignite a new civil war.”

To be honest, and this is a Yankee speaking now, I am not sure we’ve ever fully stopped fighting the old one. I have lived, worked, played and grown-up in the South now for years. In Texas, in Tennessee, in Georgia. And I am still taken aback when a Southerner refers to me as a “Northerner” or a “Yankee.” Sure, it’s true I was born “up North” but the proximity of the Civil War, the Confederate Flag, the black v white issues that seem to be still so real and palpable to many in the South just never came up as I was growing up.

I won’t say it is totally a “Southern thing” but for many reasons, the Civil War and all that the Confederate Flag symbolized then and now resonates so much more powerfully in the South than the North. I joked once with a South Carolinian Civil War “re-enactor” that he could re-enact every battle he wanted but the outcome would never change. “Maybe someday,” he responded, only partially in jest.

But where does all of this bring us as a united nation of states?

Will banning the Confederate Flag bring back the victims that Dylan Roof took with his hatred and his gun? Of course not.

But will it begin to dissipate some of the emotions and divisiveness of such a symbol for Southerners and all Americans today in the year 2015 moving forward? Quite possibly, yes.

You see one of the enigmas of the South I have felt up close and personal is a profound sense that the civil war, the hatred of those Yankees who burned Atlanta, the bitter loss of slavery and the power that brought to white plantation owners and really just that loss of independence, happened just a few years ago if that. When many Southerners talk about the Civil War you would think that Lincoln had just declared the war over the fortnight before.

And in their hearts and minds maybe it feels like yesterday. To some it seems to have never ended.

But General Robert E. Lee did in fact surrender on April 9th, 1865 to the Union forces. That was, if my Yankee math is correct, 150 years ago.

confederate flag robert e lee

No, not this Robert E. Lee, the other one!

So much has changed since then and yet, sadly, in many important ways so much remains the same. As starkly different and obvious as black and white.

Look, I realize that retiring the Confederate Flag won’t smooth over or even resolve all of the differences that separate so many Americans today. And I do appreciate that for a number of Southerners this flag continues to be a source of pride, however a mixed message it sends.

But I can only imagine what many others, especially black Americans think of when they see this flag-slavery, subjugation, dogs and water hoses, beatings, lynching, the Night Riders, the Ku Klux Klan, a time when brother fought against brother and American blood was shed and lost on both sides. A time when we were all anything but united.

Is that really the symbol we want to continue flying proudly over our state capitols in places like Haley Barbour’s Mississippi and former President Jimmy Carter’s Georgia?

What message does continuing to fly the Confederate Flag send today?

Is this a message that all Americans, black and white can embrace?

confederate flag truck

To some it is just about history and Southern Pride. But whose history? Whose pride?

This debate will continue. The furor and passion on both sides of the Confederate Flag may never fully dissipate. America will continue its love/hate relationship with guns. America will continue to be the most heavily armed civilian population in the world.

All this I know to be true.

What I also know is that while we all get swept up over a flag, Confederate or American, we would be remiss if we allowed a moment more to pass without placing the attention where it needs to also be…on the victims, the lives Dylan roof brutally took in his blind hatred. The pain he created. The families, friends, the sons and daughters he tore asunder in his cold, rage to ignite a new civil war. A war that seems to never fully heal no matter how much time passes.

Maybe because we just won’t let it.

Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr., age 74, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, age 41, Cynthia Hurd age 54, Sharonda Singleton, age 44, Myra Thompson, age 59, who was teaching Bible studies when she was killed, Tywanda Sanders, age 26, Suzie Jackson, age 87, Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor, age 49 and a Mother of four daughters, Ethel Lane, age 70.

May you all now be in a better place. And may God shed his eternal blessing on each and every one of you from this day forward to eternity.

And may the rest of us find the wisdom, compassion and clarity to stop fighting a war that should have ended some 150 years ago.

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103 thoughts on “Time to Wave Bye-Bye to the Confederate Flag?

  1. Keir B. says:

    Shortly after moving to Georgia in 2009, I saw my first Confederate flag up close and personal in Powder Springs Georgia. Having grown up in New Orleans Louisiana, racism there was a lot different so I really didn’t know how to react upon seeing the Confederate flag. I didn’t know whether I should be offended or scared or both. As time went on I started to see more and more flags. I saw him peoples yards, I saw it on peoples cars, and I’m sure may have seen a few tattoos. Overall, I’m pleased that the initiative has been taken to remove this flag from public areas, however I do feel that this flag is a part of history that should be shared with the next generation. So if that means placing the Confederate flag in a museum, then that’s what should be done.

    • Dedric L says:

      Keir B,
      I would like to add a comment. I also live in the same city as you and I recently moved here and right across from my home I have neighbors that have the Confederate flag up and when I first moved in the entire family came walked across the street and asked if I needed help unloading any boxes and I politely declined their offer but after that day it began the warm welcoming of friendly neighbors. The father came over and told me what he felt the flag represented and through him I begin to understand people have different views about the confederate flag but I thanked him for coming over to explain the flag to me but as another person with another view I care nothing about the because it is not physically hurting me therefore everyone has the right to practice what he or she believes in. I have been living in the same neighborhood for about 6 months now and still to this day I have had no problems with them.

  2. John F says:

    I have grown up and spent my entire life in the South and have grown up seeing the Confederate flag everywhere I go and it has never phased me. I understand that there are some people that are offended by it and that is okay by me, you can’t please everyone. But the banning of the flag is a little out there if you ask me. It`s not like the flag is harming anybody and it`s not like they`re putting racist slogans or logos on the flag. It`s simply a flag.

  3. Jessica L. says:

    To the people who believe it’s just a flag, I think that they misunderstand that we use a flag as representation of something. The United States flag represents freedom from England, a new beginning for so many people. Whereas the Conferderate Flag is a large symbol of our racist past (and to be honest present but hopefully not future). I think we forget that desegregation happened with the last 60 years. To be fair, the Confederate Flag is a treasonous flag as well. The South wanted to secede from the Union and become its own country, for many reasons most of them relating to the ownership of slaves. The history in the US is short compared to most countries and it’s been less than 200 years since the Confederate a Flag was adopted. While for many it may “just be a flag” because someone they are related to was in the Confederate Army or they saw it everywhere, but to others it may be a reminder that America hasn’t progressed and left behind its dark past of keeping others down for no reason other than the color of their skin.

    If anything, an almost 200 year treasonous flag should not be on government buildings because the Confederacy didn’t survive. The United States of America did and that is the only flag (besides state flags) that belong on government buildings.

  4. Dedric L says:

    To some the flag represents oppression and the past of very radical events being taken place and to some who are white born and raised in the south have beliefs that this is what they grew up on, grew up to know that this flag is what makes them better than others that are not of color and it gives them a since of pride to feel they have a nation to claim as their own. There are those that don’t care about the flag but I feel that because the flag has so much hatred behind it (like the Nazi symbol does) should be put in a museum and put in the past. I mention the Nazi symbol because just like the confederate flag, it may have represented positive things in the beginning but ended up representing the killings of millings of people of color. With that being said I do feel It would be great to create a new flag for the south to show a new growth and a new beginning has begun.

  5. Welch says:

    I was born and raised in the south. In general, southerners do not see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. Most of us call it a rebel flag and equate it with muddy trucks and a redneck lifestyle. Are we prejudiced against “Yankees”? Yeah, in a non serious way. It is mainly because we think we are friendlier and have a better lifestyle. Conversely, I do see where others with a different perspective see the flag as a symbol of inequality and hatred, mainly because they don’t understand how Southerners actually regard the flag. Sadly, it has also become a symbol for racist hate groups. Again, not the majority of Southerners. Despite all that, the protests in South Carolina demonstrated a lack of respect for the flag and the state it represents. Respect is big in the Southern culture. According to the article, a lot of bigger stores decided to not carry representations of the Confederate flag. What happened to the freedom of expression? Is it really ok for people to desecrate the flag, complain about it and protest on the capitol steps and yet have people up in arms if others support the flag and what it stands for ?

  6. Jalesa W says:

    I am an african american, so I do understand how the black community feels about this flag. In our community, its tied to racism and the KKK. Being from the south, it’s definitely not viewed as a good thing in the black community. However, I can’t ignore the fact that it’s just a flag. Removing it isn’t going to change people and it’s definitely not going to remove racism. Someone can’t complete wipe out the confederate flag from our history, but certain people will still exist.

  7. valdostaphil says:

    The confederate flag should be off all government buildings without question. But any private citizen who wants to fly it should be able to, as long as they make no other acts of rebellion or insurrection as to do so would violate federal criminal laws. Private citizens should be able to fly or burn whatever flag they want, per SCOTUS.

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