Once upon a time, in a not so distant past, our country was divided in half when the Confederate States seceded from the Union in 1860 and started the Civil War. The Confederacy consisted of 11 states led by Jefferson Davis from 1861-1865.
On March 21, 1861, Confederate VP Alexander Stephens described the ideology of the Confederacy to be “based upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man: that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural condition.” He also stated that anti-slavery “fanatics” were attempting to “make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.” He goes even further to quote Bible verses to support his belief that black citizens are inferior to white citizens, and that “it is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.” This was part of a speech known as the Cornerstone Address. Follow this link to read it in its entirety. It’s worth the read to get a full grasp on the insanity that was the Confederacy.
It’s an unequivocal truth that the Confederacy was founded on and motivated by white supremacy. Their only reason for existence was because they wanted to keep their slaves. They believed black people were inferior. THEY WERE RACISTS. There is no way around that fact. No way to sugar-coat it or explain it away. People died just so these states could fight to keep their slaves. It’s estimated that around 620,000 men died in the line of duty. In today’s numbers, that would be around 6 million people. And that is just soldier casualties. That doesn’t include civilians.
As time has passed, the Confederacy and it’s reason for existence has been romanticized by some, and the history is sometimes conveniently rewritten. People make claims that the states weren’t motivated by slave ownership, but rather by opposition to “liberalism” and the need for states to maintain financial independence. Churching it up doesn’t change the facts though. “Maintaining financial independence” meant the south relied on slave labor on plantations, which is where their money was made. If there is no one to pick the cotton or take care of the livestock or harvest the food, there would be no income. In fact, Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession stated that “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun” that makes cotton flourish. While there were other financial reasons that the south seceded, the overwhelmingly main reason was so they may continue to own slaves.
During it’s 5 year existence, the Confederacy used a variety of different flags. In fact, they had 3 different official national flags: The “stars and bars,” the “stainless banner,” and the “blood-stained” banner. The one that became most associated with them was the “battle flag.” This flag was actually a rejected design, and was never an official national flag of the Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy adopted it as a symbol of “southern heritage,” thus trying to change the original narrative of what the Confederacy was founded on. After the war, the battle flag was tied to the memory of the war. As time went on, it was rarely displayed. That started to change in the 1930’s, when Congress nearly passed an anti-lynching bill. In 1948, a segregationist group called the Dixiecrats used the flag in their political campaign, and thus spurred the flag’s popularity. It then began being used as a response to the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s. and has continued to be a symbol of racism, used by white supremacists and the KKK throughout history, and is still used for that purpose today.
So all of this begs the question…why would anyone own/fly/wear/celebrate the Confederate flag, or want statues and monuments of it’s leaders? Knowing that they all believed they were the superior race, that they owned slaves and would continue to do so had they won, why would anyone support that to this day?
The majority of the rhetoric surrounding this is that the flag is a sign of “southern heritage” and “southern pride.” This makes absolutely no sense to me. And here’s why:
- The soldiers who bore the American flag were killed by those who bore the Confederate flag. The irony that the Confederate flag represents patriotism or any American values is extraordinary.
- Why would a flag that represents being a traitor to your country be a sign of patriotism or pride?
- The Confederacy lasted for 5 years. 5 years. Barely the length of a college education. And they lost the war. Why would you celebrate that? Ironically, the same people displaying Confederate flags are often the same people complaining about participation trophies. The Confederacy lost. There is no participation trophy or any reason to brag. Take the loss and move on..
- Waving the Confederate flag as a sign of “southern pride” is the equivalent of waving a Swastika and calling it “European pride.”
- You don’t see any Americans flying a British flag or building statues of Benedict Arnold. Why? Because the British lost and Arnold was a traitor.
- There are people all over the country, outside of the south, that tout the Confederate flag image. It’s not your heritage. It’s an excuse to be racist.
The same goes for monuments of Confederate soldiers. Yes, it is important to remember our past and learn from it. However, these men are not people to be celebrated or memorialized. These statues belong in museums, where they can be properly contextualized. Where they can be explained for what they were, and what they mean today. These statues were not designed to celebrate the Confederacy. They were erected in the Jim Crow era and were designed to promote white supremacy and scare African Americans. There is a distinct difference between remembering and memorializing, and we must learn and understand that difference.
It’s important to remember that every Confederate soldier and representative took up arms against the United States. They were traitors. And just like we don’t celebrate Benedict Arnold, we must not celebrate or memorialize these men.
I know what you’re thinking: It’s a slippery slope. If we take these things away, what’s next? Washington? Jefferson? Franklin? I mean, they all owned slaves, right? Who’s to say they won’t be the next ones to be demonized? That’s a false narrative. It’s something racist people say and the media uses to make you think we are erasing history. No one is trying to erase history. They are trying to stop the idolization of racist traitors. The difference between these Confederate symbols and our founding fathers is that our founding fathers are remembered and respected for more. Freeing a nation. Writing a Constitution. Doing what, at the time, was what was needed and shaped our country. The fact that they owned slaves was despicable, and shameful, but they are also remembered for the good achievements they had. What did Robert E. Lee or any other major Confederate player do for the greater good? Nothing. That’s the difference.
Bottom line: The Confederate flag is not a symbol of your patriotism. It is not a symbol of your heritage. And it should not be a symbol of your pride. It is, however, a symbol of white supremacy. Of systemic racism. Of tyranny. Of traitors. Of losers. Of death. It has no place in this country, or in the hearts and minds of any true American citizen.
Lay down your sign of a traitorous group that lasted for only 5 years. Pick up the symbol that is meant to and should represent us all, and advocate for equal justice for every American citizen under that flag.
And that’s on the Confederate flag…