November 29, 2015

Confederate Flag Wavin

Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air opines about NYT reporting on what looks to be a new round of "fly or do not fly" arguments about the confederate flag getting ginned up in Missippi.  

“The South” – at least as defined as a unique, richly flavored heritage in the American melting pot – nearly died at the end of the 19th century. But it hung on in the tenacious way that southerners have always held on. They held on even as they came (as Virgil Cane said) and tore up the tracks again. And as they held on and regrouped through the 20th century, they had a symbol to cling to. It might not have been the best symbol, and others would obviously see it as a sigil of war, but it was the symbol they had. And they hung on to it. It grew to mean something deeper and more profound about the cultural identity of just being from The South when everyone else wanted to pretend that The South had never existed. That’s what it’s all about. And it’s what it’s been about for a very, very long time.

I don't think he explains much about the meaning of the confederate flag at all with the above, but let's set that aside. Here's my personal take on the confederate flag.  I don’t think the confederate flag should be the official flag of any federal, state or local public entity, and I don’t think anybody should want it to, but that’s for the people of those different jurisdictions to decide. I think people should be able to fly it or otherwise display it, because that’s freedom of speech. If their community ostracizes or otherwise responds negatively to them because of it, I say great. If their community thinks it’s fine or actively cheers, I say shame. But that’s America.

A lot of the Hot Air comments have said that people who are not from the south simply don’t get it. That the confederate flag symbolizes something deep and fundamental, a history and heritage encompassing any number of things about the south, its culture, its history and people that are elemental to it’s meaning to southerners. They suggest that racism and slavery, while certainly bound up in the flag’s symbolism, are merely incidental to it’s meaning, rather than core to what it stands for. You can have a lot of fine debate about it, a lot of fascinating historical discussion. I suppose there is something to that argument. Personally, I don’t think race and racism are incidental to the confederate flag’s symbolism, but I’ll accept this view of it at face value as sincerely felt and believed by its proponents.
As a black citizen, as a descendant of people who were enslaved, as a descendant of people who wore the Union uniform (13th US Colored Heavy Artillery) the confederate flag is the symbol of the people, who had they won, would have kept me and mine enslaved to this very day. It’s the symbol of the people who fought and died by the thousands, who were willing to kill thousands of their fellow white citizens, for the right to maintain my family members who came before me as chattel within a routine and organized system of degrading, violent and inhuman slavery so that I could one day be born into it as well. When I look at the flag, what I see are the colors of the people who desired to perpetuate a continuous and barbaric crime against humanity on me and mine and were willing to kill and die for it. Show a swastika to a Jew and you get a visceral reaction that pretty much anybody understands. Show me or any other regular black citizen a confederate flag, pretty much the same thing. It’s the symbol of people who fought a war to preserve their ability to enslave and degrade us. That’s what I see and that’s never gonna change.