|University of Houston
Symbolism of Confederate flag often misunderstood
The flag’s contemporary use isn’t always just for southern pride. More than 500 extremist groups use the Southern Cross as their symbol. Opponents of the flag cry racism on the grounds that the south supported slavery and even fought a war over it. But slavery was, at most, one-third of the dividing issues during the Civil War. Tariffs, states’ rights, and sectionalism were the front-and-center conflicts of the time.
It is logically inconsistent to call the Confederate flag a racist symbol. The Confederate flag is as much a part of history as the American Flag. Weren’t several authors of the Constitution slave owners? Was it the Confederate flag or the Stars and Stripes that was flown on ships that carried newly captured slaves to America? The American Flag carries just as many racist connotations as the southern flag of the Civil War. Even in the present, the Confederate flag is incorrectly associated with the groups who misuse it. Racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan wave Confederate flags for their own twisted beliefs. Humanity has a long history of screwing up icons for people who use them for evil. Long before the swastika became the hood ornament of the Nazi Regime, it was used by the Buddhists and found in early Mexican art….the history of the swastika shows us that symbolism is in the eyes of the beholder. I look at the Confederate flag and feel pride in the South….some look at the Confederate flag and see hatred….others look to the American flag and feel hatred.
THOUGHT QUESTION: Do symbols have meaning or do they inherit meaning from the people who use them? Can symbols have various meanings?
Source: Community Action Against Racism
Why the Confederate Flag is a RACIST symbol.
In the words of Floyd Cochran: “Everywhere I went in the racist movement the confederate flag was flown. Oftentimes we hear, or have been told, that the confederate flag has to do with heritage. That it does—white privilege; a heritage that enslaved people and exploited people all in the name of white supremacy and the confederacy….In many ways the Confederate flag has become the 21st century version of the swatiska…..At Aryan Nation (a group like the KKK) I was taught that the confederate flag represented: 13 stars for the 13 lost tribes of white Israel; red for purity of blood; and white was the color of our skin”
THOUGHT QUESTION: Are the Confederate Flag and the Swastika comparable?
Source: First Amendment Center
South Carolina’s display of Confederate flag sparks debate over symbolism, speech
The first amendment protects the rights of individual citizens to display the Confederate flag, but the government of South Carolina should not endorse the banner by flying it over the statehouse, says constitutional-law attorney Anthony Griffin.
Christopher Sullivan, executive director of the Southern Heritage association, defended the flag, and said calls for its removal derived from a “misunderstanding of the flag’s history”. “What are we going to do next: sanitize the whole state?” he said. “Next, we are going to not have any Robert E. Lee monuments, Robert E Lee high schools, or even George Washington high schools, because he was a slave owner.”
“The Confederate flag is associated with so much pain and has a meaning that outstrips the interests of its users.” (Larry Griffin) Panelist Larry Griffin, a historical sociologist at Vanderbilt University, countered that “the meaning of a symbol is not given by those who use it”.
THOUGHT QUESTION: Should individuals be allowed to fly the Confederate flag? Should representatives of the government and/or government buildings be allowed to fly the Confederate flag?
What limits, if any, should we have on freedom of speech (or expression)? Should offensive language and/or symbols ever be banned?
Why is the Confederate Battle Flag relevant to our society today?
Do symbols, themselves, have meaning, or are the values they represent assigned to them ?
Explain whether the following people/groups should, or should not, be allowed to fly the Confederate Flag.