Statue honoring Emma Sansom (Johnson) for her contributions towards helping Confederate troops that were chasing down Union troops through my hometown, Gadsden, Alabama. That statue sits right above the Coosa River on an island in Broad Street right in front of the municipal building. Click on the photo to read up on her.
I’ve thought long and hard over the whole Confederate Battle Flag issue. Growing up as a Black man in the South, I can honestly say that I understand both arguments when it comes to heritage vs hate. I’ve seen the monuments, watched the flag flap in the breeze, and I’ve walked the battlefields myself just to understand this part of our history and how it affected me personally.
From the heritage viewpoint, hundreds of thousands of Southern men gave their lives trying to protect their way of life. If you study the history of the United States and its formation, the Civil War was set into motion as soon as the ink was dry on the Constitution. There is nothing wrong with honoring the sacrifice by those who fought and died for the Confederacy as they did what they felt they had to at that time. Monday morning quarterbacking things now cannot accurately reflect the mindset of that time, so it is an exercise in futility trying to do so.
We have to acknowledge that the Confederate States of America is as much of a part of our history as Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Not all history is going to be glorious and happy. Not all of those who choose to honor the Confederacy are bigots and/or racists. That should not take away from us remembering our past. We have to learn to accept ourselves for who we are, warts and all. Our history is not perfect by any stretch of the means, and to know our past is important if we’re going to continue to work towards that more perfect union that our forefathers wrote of.
Those who see the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of hatred are more likely to be groups who cowered in fear over the acts committed by those who waved that flag while terrorizing fellow Americans. This goes beyond slavery and the Civil War, and it behooves those who claim the heritage aspect to understand the viewpoint of this group and vice versa.
When the KKK rode out to intimidate Blacks after the Civil War, they did so and carried the battle flag with them. When the South protested integration, one of the acts of defiance was to raise the battle flag over the state capitols and other buildings. Throughout all those acts, the symbol of heritage was hijacked and used as a symbol of hate. Even today, some still use that symbol while spewing hatred, whether it’s hatred of the federal government or different classes and groups of people. No matter how much heritage there is behind that banner, it has been stained by the hatred of a few.
My view on the flag
The flag is symbolic, but the symbolism depends on the person viewing it. Two people can see the same identical thing and come away with two entirely different opinions. This flag is proof of that. It is both, a symbol of heritage, and a symbol of hate. It does not belong on or around state buildings where governance takes place. While it would acknowledge the past for those who fought bravely, it also acknowledges a past where people resisted acknowledging the civil rights of ALL Americans.
The flag should be preserved for all posterity. The organizations that pay homage to the South should create a park where the flag can fly in memorial to those who fought for the Confederacy. These organizations could also create museums where the history can be told of the story behind the flag. I would suggest that the FULL history be told and not just the glorified, good stuff. By no means should the states themselves be involved in this as that could be construed as the states sponsoring or advocating sedition or the rejection of civil rights for citizens who rightly deserve their rights respected.
By the same token, memorials should not be on the grounds of state capitols or other buildings of governance. The state itself should separate itself from the issue and allow the private citizens to honor the CSA as they see fit. No one should be trying to destroy or remove memorials on private property, and I would argue strongly against anyone advocating to do such. Cemetaries should be left alone and any tributes there as well. Many cities and towns, my current location included, have memorials to civil war soldiers on the town square. There’s nothing wrong with that, and they should not be bothered either as long as the cities and towns don’t try to infringe on the rights of others who would want to place memorials for others in the same manner.
I could go on and on about this, but why should I? I seriously doubt anyone’s mind will be changed by what I’ve written as most minds are set in stone over this issue. My only hope is that people will open their minds to at least try to understand the opposing views and why they are as strong as the views they hold themselves. Purposefully, I did not include a single, solitary image of any flag of the CSA. That was by design. I could show countless photos of memorials and battlefields where I have personally walked to show there’s no way of ever erasing this time period out of existence, but I’m sure we all know that’s not going to happen. Instead of inflaming tensions, my goal is to educate anyone who stops by to read this.