Heritage, hate, or both

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.

Heritage

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.

Hate

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.

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10 thoughts on “Heritage, hate, or both

    • My goal is to leave this rock in better shape than it was when I arrived. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew my children picked up any form of hatred from me.

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  1. As a white daughter of the South, I think the flag belongs in musuems and theme parks. It represented us only for a few years many years ago. It should no more be displayed in government buildings than the Ten Commandments should be. While both are precious to groups of individuals, neither one has any official role in the government of all of us.

    I have complicated feelings about the heritage part. While I admire courage and loyalty, I can’t be proud of the cause in which they were used. Some of my ancestors were slaveholders and I am deeply ashamed of that part of their lives. Some of my ancestors were strident abolitionists, so it can’t be argued that no one knew any better at the time.

    Regardless of what the flag represented during the Civil War, there’s no doubt of what it meant when it was resurrected and raised over state buildings a century later. It was a message to the federal government: We fought you once to preserve slavery; we’re willing to fight again to preserve segregation and Jim Crow. That’s not a message I want sent in my name. Ever.

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    • There’s no need to be ashamed of your family’s past. Different times and different ways of living in my viewpoint. What they did then shouldn’t bring shame to you as you can’t control what they did.

      The difference between the Civil War and the Civil Rights era is what gives me pause as well. I’m interested in what the heritage preservers did to try to stop the segregationists from co-opting their symbol. I haven’t come across much to read, and I’m hoping someone can point me in a direction to help me out there.

      I’ve also been curious as to the adoption of the battle flag as opposed to the official flag of the CSA. In my view, hoisting a battle flag gives the subconscious view that you’re about to engage in battle or you expect a fight coming. I can’t answer for others, but I don’t want to battle over this. I don’t want history destroyed or forgotten.

      My ancestors may have been brought here in bondage, but they poured blood, sweat, and tears into building this country into what it is today, even if part of that effort was forced. It doesn’t bring shame to me to know that. It brings pride to know how far this country has come along in such a short period of time. It also lets me know we could have progressed farther if we didn’t have to drag some people along kicking and screaming.

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    • Thanks. I don’t think this is an easy topic to discuss as there’s so many different and valid viewpoints that need to be discussed. I only hope that people quit talking at each other and take the time to listen to each other’s views.

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  2. I cannot imagine what the black folks went through in this country but the thought of it scared my parents to tell their skinny brown kid to go to school up north. There was much less racism up in northern Ohio back in the 70s than it is right now in GA.

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    • I was born in the 70s, and I saw and experienced things that I’ve thought was bad. At the same time, I know what I experienced pales in comparison to what my parents went through.

      Hopefully, my kids will not even have to experience what I did. Progress is a great thing sometimes.

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  3. It seems to me that the people of Charleston handled this evil shooting with class and dignity. All the people trying to make political hay out of it……………not so much.

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    • I don’t even know if class is a strong enough word to describe the actions of most of Charleston. There are some there trying to stir things up, but thankfully, they are being marginalized by those working to bring the community together. Hopefully, others will see this and emulate their actions.

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