Dylann Roof shot nine black people at a church last year. Along with his manifesto of virulent racism, there were pictures him with the Confederate flag. This sparked a lot of discussion and backlash against the Confederate flag. It was removed from stores. Schools were renamed. Statues removed.
But the flag represents heritage, not hate.
It’s an adage you see accompanying the Stars and Bars of the Confederate flag: Heritage, not hate. The phrase is a defense against the racial implications of the flag and an excuse to display this racist symbolism. Some try so hard to separate what the Confederate flag represents and what the defenders want it to represent. But the symbolism is intrinsic to the flag. The history is woven into it as much as the cloth.
How the Confederate flag became so popular is simple. After the Confederates were defeated, the North chose to be lenient on them so that reconciliation would be easier. Slave-holders maintained their wealth. Conquered lands were given back. Most importantly, the Confederates were not labeled traitors.
I want to stress this: The Confederacy were traitors. It amazes me that the most red-blooded Americans will gladly fly the flag of traitors.
Because of the leniency in Reconstruction, the South was able to form a narrative, one that persists well into today. They call it the “War of Northern Aggression” and “States’ Rights.” It was a nice way of framing the situation. Slavery was abhorrent, but States’ rights sounded right to those who opposed the controlling federal government. Additionally, the South was able wiggle around the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments ushering in the era we all know as Jim Crow.
Up until the 1950s, the myth of the honorable South was still very much in play, then it really came to the forefront. Most of the Confederate statues were erected around this time. The Confederate flag became popular again. Why? What was going on in this decade that would prompt such an action?
The Civil Rights era was in full gear. As a way of discouraging Black participation in civic matters and the government and to assert dominance in the United States, certain factions displayed oppressive imagery in the forms of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate assholes. They named schools after Confederates. Mississippi began to fly the Confederate flag high above state houses.
Now, it’s hard to deny the racist implications of the Confederate flag. Despite that, some still cry when a school gets renamed or a statue gets taken down or the flag is removed. These apologists will say that we are erasing history by removing these Confederate totems. The history is still there. They stand in museums. We still learn about the Civil War in schools, although whitewashed.
The Confederate flag represents a heritage of hate and oppression. Displaying it will show your ignorance at best. At worst, it means you are a racist shit. Discard your shameful heritage. You don’t need it.