“The past always looks better than it was. It’s only pleasant because it isn’t here,” once wrote Peter Finley Dunne.
Florida Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner recently started a movement to remove one vestige of the past from the State Senate Seal – the confederate flag. I have seen the senate seal dozens of times and simply never paid attention of the various flags featured on it. Leader Joyner’s efforts have received bi-partisan support and most agree that the Confederate Flag has no business being on any state seals or flags.
The issue of the Confederate flag is one that embodies the cultural and racial gap that exists in this country today – especially in the South. Those who fly the flag or wear it on a hat or bumper sticker consider themselves as simply proud Southerners – I suppose.
Those of us who are bothered by the notion of the Confederate flag still has a place in American society are proud Southerners as well, but feel that the flag is only symbolic of everything still wrong in the South.
There is a reason that Barack Obama did not win one “Traditional Southern” state. Sure, he won Florida twice, but the Sunshine State is unique because of the millions of northern immigrants and the state’s diversity in population. It’s an issue that is closely related to the flying of the confederate flag – it has to do with both race and social ideologies.
As I just said, the proponents argue that the Rebel flag is simply a sign of Southern pride. As the proud banner of Southern nationalism, this criss-crossed ban of stars is supposed to represent the South’s struggle against the oppression from the North.
Sounds a bit ridiculous to me, but some even go as far to say that the Civil War was solely about state’s rights, not slavery.
The opponents of this grand Southern crest say that it’s a sign of the legacy of hatred and racism that was so openly endorsed in the South. Over a century after the flags creation, it remains at the center of a cultural struggle between old and new, tradition and change, and heritage or hate.
For me it’s very simple. The flag sends a message that who ever flies it or places a bumper sticker on their vehicle is proud of its heritage and proud of what it represents – years of racism, lynching, segregation, and those who feel that they are a part of a superior race.
That’s why when I saw Councilwoman Glorious Johnson wearing a Confederate Flag sweatshirt on the front page of a local newspaper several years ago I was so surprised. Although she was a Black Republican at the time, I think that she was the first Black person I had ever seen wearing a confederate flag shirt. It immediately reminded me of the argument about the flags symbolism.
Again, for most African Americans (and I should stress the word “most”) and people not of southern heritage, the flag is a reminder of decades of slavery, racism, and segregation.
The “Rebel” flag is a reminder of the hundreds, if not thousands of blacks that were lynched, raped and brutally murdered in the South. It’s a symbol of hate, ignorance, and bigotry, which dominated the landscape of the Southern states.
Of course, we have seen some positive movement on removing the Confederate flag from public buildings – mostly sparked by the murders of nine blacks in a Charleston, SC church. It took those deaths and the national negative attention associated with those murders to put enough pressure on the Governor and Republican leaders of that state to finally remove the flag from the state capitol. Other southern states have since followed suit.
If those who claim that they fly the flag because of Southern heritage should simply read the Confederate constitution that states, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states, and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.”
So it is extremely hard to separate heritage from hate when the heritage supporters speak of is deeply rooted in the hatred and injustice of African Americans.
Another example of this racist Southern “heritage” that some want to hold on to can be found in Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens famous Cornerstone speech in 1861 in Savannah, Georgia.
Stephens said: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [in the U.S. Constitution that all men are created equal]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -subordination to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition.”
Need I say more?
In an era where politics are determined by red and blue states, it is obvious that the Southern red states still share common mentalities about race and culture. If you look at a map of the red and blue states from the past two presidential elections, and then look at a map of those states that succeeded from the union – there is a scary consistency.
The Confederate Flag should not be featured on any official government or public buildings, seals, or property. That’s not debatable.
Signing off from Tallahassee,