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National Movement to Lower Flag of Racial Hatred, 150 Years Overdue


#1

National Movement to Lower Flag of Racial Hatred, 150 Years Overdue

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

One hundred and fifteen years after the end of the American Civil War and despite decades of calls for its retirement, the Confederate Flag—the emblem of the Old South and its racist legacy—may finally be coming down.

In the days following the horrific massacre of nine black people at a church bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, images were shared widely of the 21-year-old killer Dylann Roof posing with the flag.


#2

This isn't progress.

Progress connotes forward movement.

This is political theater deliberately designed to thwart that motion.

Symbols represent substance, and their removal only has meaning to the degree those structures crumble.

A whitewash of their walls only obscures their presence.


#3

Those who defend the Confederate flag claim that it is about "heritage" not hatred. But this is a ridiculous argument. What exactly is the heritage they are talking about? They would say the noble fight of southerners to preserve "states' rights" and the "southern way of life." But as soon as we get exact, the game is given away and the true meaning of the Confederate flag comes to light. In the first place, states' rights was all about slavery--it was all about the "right" of the planter class to advance its barbarous social system. In the second place, a state cannot have a "right" to enslave or oppress people. The Southern states were slaveholding societies but they never had the moral "right" to keep people in bondage. They simply had the power. Third, the Southern way of life was white supremacy. The Constitution of the Confederacy made this very clear. So people who claim that the flag is merely about heritage are either being disingenuous or they just don't know what they are talking about.

Throughout the United States, from Connecticut to California, from Oregon to Georgia, you can see confederate flags on autos. The people who so display the flag know full well what it means. They mean it as a statement of "white nationalism"--white power, rebel culture, country boy resistance or whatever. For them, the flag clearly signifies white supremacy and the "lost cause," the defeat of the South, when "the white race" in American began to lose "their country." The tragedy is many supporters of the flag are working class people--the so-called "white trash" or "mean whites" who were always scorned by the planter class and other elites. These are the people who manned the Confederate armies and fought for a cause that was not truly their own.

The Confederate flag is a vicious symbol of racism and it's pathetic that some so-called "white people" need this flag to tell them who they think are. It's time for these people to let go of the comforts of myth and accept the real hardships of history.

Incidentally, the Confederate flag is recognized as a racist symbol all over the world. It is part of the skinhead make up in Poland, the Ukraine, England, Germany, etc. Only in the Disneyland that is the USA do we have to pretend that the Confederate flag is something innoncent.


#4

You are SO right about that.


#5

Its both IRONIC and ICONIC that the pinheads in So. Carolina who placed the Battle flag of Rebellion there felt the need to use a chain and a lock to keep it safe on its flag pole. Didn't they get how symbolic using a lock and chain was in the context of what that flag represents even today?


#6

This is a welcome development--the removal of the Confederate battle flag from display in front of the South Carolina legislature. Still, this development will no more promote racial harmony than the display of the US flag will promote patriotism. It is a beginning though.


#8

Two hundred and thirty two years after the end of the Revolutionary War and despite centuries of calls for its retirement, the United States Flag—the emblem of the United States and its murderous legacy—may finally be coming down.

In the years following the horrific massacre of 100s of thousands of people in Iraq, images were shared widely of the killers posing with the U.S. flag.

The shock of the brutal and racially motivated killings coupled with a growing Peace movement has seemingly catalyzed a wave of condemnation which has swept the U.S., with the exception of most politicians, others—who for years have defended the flag as a symbol of American pride and heritage—are all joining in the national call for a boycott.


#9

This is a very complex subject which unfortunately like most subjects taught in U.S. education is done simplistically and superficially. My thoughts:

Prior to the emancipation proclamation, the "north" and more specifically the Federal government had absolutely no intention of changing the status of Negroes. The war began because of the "southern" perspective that their agrarian culture (which used slave labor) was to be wiped out by the industrialized culture of the "north". The war was about state v. federal rights.

From "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" by Morris Berman

"Most Northerners believed, at least initially, that the war was not about slavery as a moral issue. In an address to a special session of Congress on July 4, 1861, Lincoln stated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the United States where it exists”, repeating what he had said at his inauguration earlier in the year. Secession, he said, was the real issue, for the Union must be preserved at all costs (the Union Congress passed resolutions endorsing all of this). Lincoln already made it clear that he did not favor social and political equality for blacks “in any way” and was a major proponent of repatriating them to a colony in Central America. For other Republicans, moral opposition to slavery was a non-issue."

The Confederate battle flag and all other representations have now come to be solely identified with "the peculiar institution" -- slavery. Initially, it did not represent only that issue.

Perhaps the greatest mistake Lincoln made was not allowing the southern states to secede. Is this not one of the tenets of democracy that people are allowed to determine in what way and under what organization they wish to live? Where is it written that the U.S.A. as it existed then and now will continue, or should for that matter?

Lastly, I would suggest that the U.S. flag currently represents to many around the planet economic and military subjugation, and death and destruction. And, no, not all those who feel this way are "Muslim" or "Arab".


#10

The Confederate Battle Flag only flew from 1861 to 1865 during the War for
Southern Independence. There were ZERO slaves transported into slavery
by a ship flying that flag.

The Portuguese dominated the early slave trade, but at its height, in the
eighteenth century, British and American merchants helped bring millions
of Africans to the Americas. Nearly two-thirds of the Atlantic slave
trade took place between 1698 and British abolition in 1807–1808.

According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans
were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle
Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South
America.

Of this 10.7 million, only approx. 388,000 were sold in the Southern and
Northern States. Most went to the Carribean islands, and Central and
South America.

Approx.1.8 million men, women, and children died under deplorable, unspeakabe
conditions on the voyage over and were cast overboard like just so much
trash. That’s over 4 times as many than became slaves in the North and
the South. All done primarily on ships flying the American and British
flags.

If condoning slavery, or brutality, or even worse the total disregard of
our fellow man is what would warrant the removal of the flag of the
offending group, then why are there no voices being raised about the
British Union Jack, or the American flag?


#11

Publius:

The "war for southern independence"? What did the planter class have in mind by "independence"? Are you going to claim that upholding the barbarous slave system was no part of their thinking? I don't understand your point about slaves being transported under the Confederate flag. The slave trade existed AMONG southern states and that was bad enough. Yes, most Africans went to the Caribbean and Latin America, but so what? How does that absolve North America of its sins? And I agree with you that the stars and stripes and the union jack are also symbols of racial oppression, but they are not ONLY that. One can fight over their ultimate meaning, but the Confederate flag is an unambiguous symbol of slavery, racism and oppression. Jefferson Davis was in no doubt what he fighting for, and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America made very clear that "the South" (ie, Southern white supremacists) was fighting the war to uphold an inhuman system of enslavement. It should be clear that there is no such thing as a "moral right" or moral freedom to own and brutalize other people. It was good for humanity that the South lost the war. In my opinion, the Confederate flag is the moral equivalent of the swastika.Ugh!


#12

Some years ago (I forget how many...) I saw a book review, undoubtedly with a magazine article, claiming that even if the South had won the war, i.e. had not been reconquered, had obtained independence, slavery would have ended in the South within a few decades. To be explored further is whether the slave-like shareholder economy would have ended then, or later when it actually did end. ...

The American Civil War is said to have been the bloodiest war in America. (That needs to be checked against the blood-toll of the Mexican Revolution...) At about the same time as the American Civil War three nations in South America were fighting another war, also very bloody. About 60% of Paraguay's population died in that war. I have seen a statement that one consequence of that war was that a few decades later slavery was abolished in Brazil.

I challenge the statement that before the Emancipation Proclamation the north and Federal Government had "absolutely no intention of changing the status of Negroes." The 1860 Presidential campaign was understood to involve the question of slavery, and South Carolina took Lincoln's election as meaning that he would interfere with their 'peculiar institution'. Lincoln and his party wanted change, but out of timidity were initially proposing only baby steps. A historian has said that Southern secession, and then defeat, made possible larger changes than would have occurred otherwise.


#13

For many people the American Civil War was a question of what or who they owed their loyalty to.

Not much reported now is that Abraham Lincoln asked Gen. Robert E. Lee to lead the Union forces to put down "the rebellion". Gen. Lee considered, and decided that he owed his loyalty more to Virginia than to Washington DC's Federal Government, or to the Confederate Government. He fought for the Confederacy because the Union was attacking Virginia.

jrp1900 wrote

When we consider that "owning" also includes a duty and obligation to feed, shelter and take good care of the property, and this has been true for 1000s of years; well, people in this forum reject the "owning" part, but continue to assert that all of us, particularly white folks guilty of so many crimes, have a large obligation to feed, shelter and take good care of other persons.


#14

► That White people captured, transported, owned and traded slaves is a fact, not a judgement, or at least not necessarily a judgement.

So you needn't be offended. My 3xgreat grandfather William "Uncle Billy" Smith of Valdosta, Georgia owned 26 slaves and it won't offend me if you "continue to assert" that he did. I even assert it myself once in a while, and the local museum and historical records continue to assert it.


#15

Publius:
The British and the American flags also represent an effort at correcting their past errors of supporting slavery. The various Confederate flags represent a determined effort to RETAIN slavery during the time of the Civil War. A great deal of difference, wouldn't you say?


#16

Daragesamerica:
The war actually began when South Carolina opened fire on a fort of the U.S. Army; but before that, the problem was that most southern cotton was being shipped to Britain to feed its huge appetite for raw material. The north had an incipient cotton mill business of its own and had the opinion that it would be better for the whole Country if American raw cotton was used to develop American mills, rather than enrich the mills in Britain. That way, all the cotton being consumed in Britain could be milled in America instead, with the cloth then being sold to Britain. That way, both the south and the north would benefit. Which is how the tariff issue got started. At this point, slavery was a side issue.

But once the war did begin, the battle flag was indeed about slavery since slavery was the basis of all other issues between the two sides. Remove slavery from the equation and the war had no reason to happen.

Where is it written, you ask, that the USA would or should continue to exist? Specifically, it is written in the Articles of Confederation which is what formed the Union, about a decade before the Constitution was composed. You are correct that the "consent of the governed" is the foundation principle, and the 13 States voluntarily consented to form themselves into a Union, and then stated more than a half dozen times that said Union shall be perpetual.

And no, the AOC did not get cancelled in its entirety once the Constitution was adopted. There is absolutely no wording that cancels the AOC. What DID happen is that almost all of the matters addressed in the AOC were updated and superseded, one at a time, in the new Constitution. But three items were untouched:
1. The establishment of the Union,
2. The perpetual nature of said Union, and
3. The very name of the Country
All of these items ARE in the AOC, but do not appear except by reference in the Constitution.


#17

aplusb2: The notion that masters have a "duty and obligation" to take care of their slaves is a classic proslavery argument, advanced by every reactionary thinker from Aristotle to Thomas Carlyle to James Hammond. Who says the masters have a "duty" to do any such thing? Could it be that the masters invented this way of talking about lordship to disguise the fact that it really rests upon brutal homocidal violence? Don't you see how stupid the whole argument is? I take you as a slave by force of arms and then I tell you (and myself) that I have an "obligation" to treat you well. But if you try to run away from me, or lay claim to yourself as a human being, I will chase you down with dogs, hunt you with guns and whip you in cowering submission. There can be no genuine "moral" culture in a slave society. It's rather like applauding a guard in a concentration camp for his "humanity."

It's simply not true that ethical or moral considerations mitigated the evil inhumanity of slavery. Slavery is abuse and assault all the way through. A slaveowner (however "kind") is a morally corrupted human being.

It's a mistake to say that "white folks" in general were responsible for slavery. Chief responsibility must fall on the slaveowners themselves, particularly the ruling planter class of the Old South. These people were the direct oppressors of other human beings.

We only have a "large obligation" to take care of each other if we want to be properly human. If we want to be like sharks in the ocean or vultures at a carcass, we can go our own selfish way and say to hell with everyone else. Isn't it obvious that a slaveowner is more like a shark or a vulture than a genuine or complete human being? Isn't slaveholding a predatory, parasitic way of getting on in life?


#18

An analogous argument is advanced by the Humane Society, PETA and society in general towards how we treat the animals in our lives. -- Be mindful of stereotypes. Treatment of slaves varied by quite a bit. Start by reading Paul's Letter to Philemon in the Bible, and that section of Genesis dealing with Joseph's enslavement in Egypt. As an example of another sort, Negroes who escaped to Florida often wound up as still slaves, but the Seminole Indians were considered better masters than the whites they had escaped from. And, to note, the whites they had escaped from, by vote-with-feet of the slaves, were probably worse than other white slave-holders in the neighborhood.

I agree. It is people like article writer Mr. Coates who argue that all whites bear responsibility that it happened and responsibility to make it up to Blacks.


#19

aplusb2. Not sure what you mean by the "analogous argument..advanced by the Humane society" concerning our treatment of animals. I believe strongly in the dignity and value of animals, but I don't think taking care of a dog is anything like a HUMAN relationship to another human being. It's no accident that slave masters model their oppression of other human beings on animal husbandry, because this calls to mind the domestic moral economy you mentioned. But the point is, a person is not a cow or a pig. In fact, even cows and pigs are not cows and pigs as we imagine them. A good farmer will see the animal for what it really is, but a slavemaster can NEVER see his slave as another (equal) human being.

Of course, treatment of slaves has varied throughout history. But the essence of ALL slavery is oppression, alienation and exploitation and this is true even in those societies where slaves enjoyed a fair chance at manumission. As for the black experience with the Seminoles, it is too complex to lump under one word --"slavery." Bear in mind that ante bellum Southerners wanted to see "slavery" in all hierarchical social relations because this helped to normalize the plantocracy.

When I say that "White folks" in general were not responsible for the evils of slavery, I don't mean by that that American society gets off the hook. Direct oppression was enforced by the masters, the slave patrols, the slave traders, politicians and by many ordinary citizens, Indirect oppression resulted from the totality of American society. Nobody escaped bearing some responsibility, but the chief responsibility must be laid at the feet of the big planters. They ALWAYS had the choice not to enslave. But as members of a ruling class, they wanted the profits and the prestige of slaveholding without paying the true moral price. These people--and the banks and insurance companies and industrial a and mercantile concerns in the North that enthusiastically supported them--are the real perpetrators of the evil slave system. The ignorant "mean whites" who manned the patrols and fought for the Confederacy are far from being blameless, but nor were they the guiding force.

American society has to own slavery. Individual families who benefited from slave ownership must decide for themselves what they owe to humanity. In truth, the United States has NEVER really acknowledged the true tragedy of American slavery.


#20

I'm glad the flag came down. It's about time.