Monday, November 28, 2005

CROSSROADS: Confederate Flag Controversy

Original Chimes Article Here

CROSSROADS: Confederate Flag Controversy
Flag evokes memory of slavery

[ see also Flag honors memory of ancestors ]

“We’ve told you for years it offends us, yet you continue to fly it, and that shows you hold us in disregard and much disdain.” Nelson Rivers, National Field Operations for the NAACP

On Jan. 17, more than 50,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Columbia, South Carolina. They carried signs reading “Your Heritage is my Slavery” and sang “The flag is coming down today” to the tune of “We shall Overcome.” They were protesting the Confederate flag flying above the South Carolina Capitol building.

Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the famous civil rights leader, spoke at the rally.

“The flag is a terrible symbol that brings a lot of negative energy,” said King.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP was also present. He stated that “Those who support the Confederate flag of the Klan, the Skin Heads, the Militia and other hate groups support bigotry and racial intolerance.”

The presidential primaries and a NAACP boycott have once again brought the question of the Confederate flag back into the spotlight. Georgia and Mississippi have incorporated the Confederate flag into their state flag; the Alabama flag is similar to the Confederate flag; South Carolina has the Confederate flag flying over its Capitol building beneath the actual state flag.

Although defended as protecting Southern heritage, the Confederate flag is closely associated with racism, and its continued presence in these states is an embarrassment to the rest of the nation.

The Confederate flag was used by the South during the Civil War. In that war, the South fought against the North to protect its way of life, a way of life that included slavery.

After thousands of men rallied behind this flag to fight and kill in order to protect slavery, the Confederate flag will forever be associated with racial concerns. It is naive to think that we can view this flag without thinking about its history.

Furthermore, the Confederate flag has been closely tied to many racist causes. The Ku Klux Klan has made frequent use of the flag, and many pro-segregationists used the flag as a symbol during the civil rights movement. Regardless of what the flag may have originally stood for, these groups have caused it to become a symbol of white power.

Beasely, former governor of South Carolina, realized this when he said, “The Confederate flag flying

above the Statehouse flies in a vacuum. Its meaning and purpose are not defined by law. Because of this, any group can give the flag any meaning it chooses. The Klan can misuse it as a racist tool, as it has, and others can misuse it solely as a symbol for racism, as they have.”

A similar view was expressed by John Palms, president of the University

of South Carolina, who asserted, “Flying anything except the official flag above the Statehouse can only inspire a debate that cannot be resolved since any symbol that is not an official one is especially subject to personal interpretation.”

However, the ties between the Confederate flag and racism go beyond fringe groups such as the Klan. It has long been used as a symbol of official white resistance to black advances.

In the 1890s, Mississippi incorporated the Confederate flag into its state flag while at the same time legalizing segregation. In 1948, the Confederate flag appeared on the South

Carolina Legislative Handbook. It is widely thought that this was meant to signal a pro-racial-segregation message on the part of the state legislature.

In 1956 Georgia Legislature voted to incorporate the Confederate emblem in its state flag as a direct response to the Supreme Court ruling that school segregation is unconstitutional. South Carolina raised the Confederate flag in 1962.

Officially, the flag was supposed to mark the civil war centennial, but many believe it was also intended to be a response to the civil rights movement and a protest against the end of legalized segregation. The fact that the Confederate flag continues to fly in South Carolina, long after the Civil War centennial has passed, supports this view.

In the spirit of the First Amendment, I fully support the right of individuals or private organizations to wave the Confederate flag to their hearts’ content.

However, as a symbol of government, it is absolutely inappropriate. It is an insult to the African Americans and other minorities who live in these states.

The Confederate flag should be removed and relocated to a place of historical rather than sovereign context, before it puts another blemish on America’s record of racial harmony.

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