10 April 2011

The Rebel Flag

In the South you see them (almost said "her" 'cause that's how I was raised) everywhere - bumper stickers, t-shirts, belt buckles, bikinis, hats, baby onesies, can coozies, socks, stuffed animals, clocks, jewelry, jackets, bed spreads, camping chairs, dog collars, cell phone cases and covers, trailer hitches, license plates, throw blankets, floor mats, and on and on.
But what does it mean?

Some of these images come with phrases like, "I don't wear this shirt to p**s you off, but if it does that makes my day", "It's a Southern thang. Yanks'll never understand.", "It's not a Redneck thang, it's the RIGHT thang", "Heritage, not hate", "Never apologize for being right", "The South will rise again", "If this flag offends you, you need a history lesson". But what does all this mean?

There are bits of history pointed out on both sides of the to-fly-or-not-to-fly argument. I looked around on the internet and found lots of versions of the "pro" argument. Here's one that I thought was clearly stated from associatedcontent.com:

"...First of all, the Confederate flag, in some people's eyes, is a symbol of hatred towards African-Americans. This is completely incorrect. The Confederate States of was not formed because of slavery. Anyone that wanted a slave owned one. What history fails to mention is that in the South, the title was slave, but in the North, they became "indentured servants." This is merely a way to soften the cold, hard truth that the North owned slaves. The harsh treatment of slaves was incredibly wrong. However, history also will not tell you that the percentage of mistreated slaves was incredibly low. A slave, by today's standards, could cost anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000. How many people pay this much money to have something to starve and beat until dead? Actually, the real meaning behind the secession was taxes.
"The North was incredibly rich due to one reason. Congress only allowed the sale of the South's main goods such as cotton and tobacco to Northern factories instead of shipping to other countries. Did the South get any of this back? Well, of course, if they could pay the added tax that the finished products had slapped on them for resale to the South. Oh, by the way, if you think that heavy taxation and no one being there to represent the taxing party is a horrible way to start the war, think about this: That's why the Revolution was started. Those brave men that began knew this. The South remembered this.

"The Confederate flag is a symbol of the ultimate bravery. These men committed treason against something they knew was wrong. This happened in the Revolution, and wrote the history. In the Civil War, the North wrote the history and shed some very bad light on the South. It would be a much different history book if the South had won...."
For the whole article click HERE.

An African-American woman wrote in response:
"..As I read the piece and appreciated the history lesson though, I felt compelled to explain why African Americans "in general" find the flag so offensive..
"As Chris laid out in his article, the history of the flag had nothing to do with what it has come to mean. I knew nothing about the history of the flag before reading Chris' article. In it, he states that the flag stood for bravery because southerners rebelled against what was in essence 'taxation without representation.'...
"While the flag's history may have a noble beginning, the meaning of it has been twisted into something else altogether.
"As one of the commenters noted so eloquently in her response, 'I understand that some people have used the flag or it's likeness to mean hatred. Did you know the swastika is seen as a symbol of hatred, but it was the Egyptian symbol for peace? The flag itself is not the problem or have any true meaning here - it's the hatred in people's hearts or the love in people's heart that makes something MEAN something.'
"The displaying of the flag to us, African Americans, means that you subscribe to a certain ideology. An ideology that is against who we are as a people.
"Just like you'd ascertain that someone sporting a Nazi swastika is not a fan of, for example, Jewish people, African Americans assume that if you proudly display the rebel flag, then you're probably not someone who is looking to become our friend.
"Now, maybe that's our wrong perception, our "bad." BUT, at some point, perception becomes reality. Why? Because if you've had 100 experiences with something and 99 of those times it's not positive, why would you assume that it's going to be different the 100th time?...
"The author writes, 'The harsh treatment of slaves was incredibly wrong. However, history also will not tell you that the percentage of mistreated slaves was incredibly low.'
"This sentiment is an oxymoron as far as I'm concerned. When you are enslaved - no matter how 'well' you're treated, it is mistreatment.
"Imagine not being able to go when and where you please, having your family sold off, not being able to start a business if you so choose, someone telling you IF you are able to marry the person of your choice.
"Beatings are just the physical brutality of slavery - the mental and emotional scarring are everlasting...."

Click here to read the whole article.

Honestly I see both points of view. Some fly Irish flags. Some fly British flags. Some fly African flags. Some fly state flags. Why shouldn't Southerners who believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of bravery be able to fly it without judgment? However, there are very few flags that are associated with hate and racism. The Confederate flag is one of them. Why even associate yourself with something that stands for hate and racism to a whole race? I could go back and forth all day as many people do.

I was raised with Southern pride instilled deep in my heart. I still have it and am glad for it. I love the South. I adore it, and I am proud to have been born and raised there. I tear up just thinking about my beloved South and just how much I love it. If I had my way I'd "live and die in Dixie". However, I no longer wear or display the Dixie flag.

For me the Dixie / Rebel / Confederate flag shows pride in being Southern. It shows pride in being from the South. I wore it. I bought bumper stickers with it on them and put them on my truck out here in the West. I brought little rebel flags home for my husband's family once when we were back home visiting. I even hung one in the nursery when we were expecting our first baby, Angel. I was, and still am proud to be from the South, but I don't show my pride by displaying ol' Dixie any more.

Why? Well I always knew black people don't like it. That's about all I knew. Well, I knew it was because slavery was a big part of the Civil War. But that's not why I displayed it. It was the "heritage, not hate" point of view. A couple years ago, yes just that recent, I came to the realization that no matter how I view it, it offends a whole race of people. It deeply offends and is a slap in the face. I decided I can give up displaying a flag to show my "brotherly love". I can give up a symbol for a much greater cause - goodwill.

I will admit that I genuinely miss waving Dixie. It truly just means Southern pride to me, and Southern pride is something I have a lot of. However, I choose not to fly her. This is my personal decision, and I stand by it. For me and my family, flying Dixie is not right... and it pains me to say so.

Thoughts? I'd LOVE to hear them.

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  1. I love that you've put out both points of view. I do love that flag, but I will never display it openly. It feels sad and wrong to say so. It sounds as though I feel ashamed to love it. I'm not. I've just chosen to display my love for Dixie in other ways, such as supporting the battle reenactments and the history of my beloved home, and raising my children to be tolerant of all people, regardless of race, nationality, religion, etc.

  2. I know what you mean about it feeling "sad and wrong". Isn't it something how a flag can evoke so much emotion?

  3. I like this post. As you probably know, the rebel flag is still flown at the State Building in Columbia. I have an issue because my dad went to Dixie College in Utah and is very proud of the rebel flag. I've tried to tell him that regardless of why he likes the flag, one day it will probably hurt his grandchildren to see it displayed in his home. It still hasn't sunk in for him, but I hope it will. It may be the grandkids that have to teach him.

  4. Thanks! I did not know the rebel flag was still flying any where in a government building. Wow. Keep trying with your dad. It's be much better if he gets it before your children are able to be offended. Print out material like this post to help him understand. Google, girl, Google. :) Good luck!

  5. Honestly, I don't believe that all African Americans find the fag offensive. I will give you that many do, but there are many, many in the South who are just as proud of it's history as white people. I have a black friend from Alabama who loves it because his great-grand father (a freed slave) fought for that flag. And I also believe that the main reason that anyone finds it offensive is because the Union wanted history to remember the civil war being about slavery,which it was not. As everyone who is well educated knows, history, by nature, is one sided. The winning side writes the books. No one that does not have ancestors that were on the Southern side of the war knows a) the real causes or b) that many African-Americans fought for the confederacy. In this case, there are enough first hand accounts from the Confederate side that the real causes of the war cannot be completely forgotten, but these stories remain locked in the South. I fly Dixie high and proud every day because Americans, by constitutional right, can believe in anything they want to, and I believe that Confederate ideals are still the right way.

  6. Yep. That's the opinion I grew up hearing. Thank you for demonstrating it.

  7. This was well written & you every right to do whatever you want to do.I would just say I am a white man in the south however my GF happens to be black & from Detroit Mich. I drive a full size Bronco with a lift kit & a rebel flag front & back of her. Some of my GFs friends may be offended but I served in 2 branches of the military (Army 2yrs Navy 6yrs)to preserve my rights. It seems to me that even though I am offended when her black friends call me white boy or say how they hate white people, use the N word like it going out of style that I MUST except it. I'm from the south & proud of it, I'm a Vet & proud of it but that Flag STAYS where I put her. To me she represents fishing under a shade tree on sunday, tubing the Chattahoochee, bone fires in the woods,jumping off bridges,cliffs rope swings at the river, BBQ, Ice Tea & kinder more laid back folks. I have a Pecan tree in the front yard, a huge smoker BBQ grill & a mud truck in the driveway I reckon I will always have my southern flag also. PS I do get a big kick watching the way folks look when they see a big white guy in a lifted truck with rebel flags & a black GF LOL tickles me every time but I'm not about to get rid of either one cause I love both.

  8. The rebel flag means much the same to me. Thank you for sharing.


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