Bree Newsome did what has needed to be done since the Confederate flag un-graced the South Carolina Capitol during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1962: Removed a flag that had turned from private remembrance of Confederate soldiers lost during the Civil War, to a very public symbol of hatred, reactionary law and white supremacy in America after World War 2. I tried to understand why some Southerners held so steadfastly to a symbol that has garnered so much derision, fear and repulsion; a symbol that has been comfortably taken up by racists, reactionary conservatives, and most telling, the self-proclaimed white supremacist shooter of the Charleston 9. But my search for understanding only begat more questions. The rallying cry of conservatives who love this Confederate flag is that of Southern pride. But pride of what? The fight and subsequent loss in the Civil War? Are they proud that they fought so vigilantly so that they could not be a part of what we today call the United States of America? They claim that they fought bravely for the protection of States rights -not the maintenance of slavery – and that alone is a reason to be proud of the display of the flag.
But how curious that the conservative argument for such a blatant display of treason conveniently downplays the role of slaves in the war, as if slavery was a minute part of economic and social importance. It is such a ludicrous argument that the Civil War was not about slaves, but about states’ rights. The South so obviously fought for their state’s right to hold slaves, the labor of which brought incredible wealth to the region, and America.
Conservatives love to remind people that only less than 25 percent of Southerners held slaves, but conveniently leave out that this small percentage of slaveowners controlled the enormous wealth, politics, and social status quo of the South. And basic high school American History taught us that a major contention of the Civil War was the Three Fifth’s Clause, giving the South less of a tax liability, and therefor more wealth and power. A loss of that power would obviously create a cause for contention among the warring factions of States. Slaves were indeed a very major component of the Civil War and conservatives need to stop kidding themselves about that fact.
Would we be so understanding if a group of German people displayed a Nazi flag with honor as they reminisced about their country’s horrific extermination of human life? I struggle to see how maintaining the Confederate Flag is any different.
It’s time to let it go. The Civil War was fought and lost by the Confederate States. There is no honor in being treasonous, and there is no honor in stealing the labor and wealth of Black Americans. People have appropriated it’s symbol and thrust its colors in the name of a shameful past that warrants no cause for celebration. It is a solemn moment in American history that needs to be left in museums, history books and private collections, if not destroyed altogether.