History and racism. It’s difficult to differentiate one from the other when talking about the United States’ past. What means liberation for one is seen as marginalization for another. America has grappled with the tension between opposing ideas for centuries – and the Confederate flag is one of many present-day examples.
“Our new government is founded upon…the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition”– Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States
The Confederate flag came about during the era of the Civil War in 1861. This became the symbol for the Confederacy: a republic of states who wanted to retain the right to own black slaves. Eleven states left America to make up the independent pro-slave republic and fought a bloody war against the United States that lasted four years. In the end, the Confederacy lost and returned to the Union. However, the end of the Confederacy did not mean the end of its racist ideals or symbolism.
There are many reasons why people think they should be able to wave Confederate flags on their front porches. One is that the flag is a symbol of the fight for freedom. Others argue it is a symbol of the state’s rights. What is offensive to those who oppose the Confederate flag is what the Confederacy fought to uphold: racism.
Here’s what’s wrong with the association of the Confederate flag and freedom: it is extremely hypocritical. Yes, a group of people felt like they were being restricted from exercising their freedom of choice. However, their intention was to prevent an entire group of people from being free. How can one say they support the idea of freedom if they also support the republic who fought to take away the freedom of blacks? The only logical argument for supporting the Confederate flag is if you support racism. This is what the Confederacy was founded upon and what it died for.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”– United States Declaration of Independence
For so long, the Confederate flag has been considered “controversial” and “political.” Equality and black rights are considered “political.” You cannot have an opinion about human rights. Either believe people should have it or not. You either are or are not racist. Do not cower behind the argument that the Confederate flag is about “pride” and “freedom.” The Confederacy was based on the idea of inequality, and if you support it, you do not support American freedom for all.
The above excerpt is from Robin DiAngelo’s novel entitled White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. In her book, DiAngelo claims that a large reason why racism is such a polarizing topic is due to white fragility. People grow up believing that the Confederate flag is a testament to the rebel spirit – but somehow fail to recognize the racism that lies in it.
This is an effort to preserve white comfort. Education has been whitewashed, and it is a big tool in perpetuating ignorance. When people are reluctant to accept the inherent racism involved with the Confederate flag, they are choosing to disregard history. We do not get to pick and choose which parts we want to pay attention to. The United States was built on racism, and we are still struggling with it – period.
I’m not saying you can’t wave your Confederate flag. You have a right to freedom of speech. However, do not claim your support of the Confederate flag without confronting your racism and white fragility as well. The Confederate flag supports the idea of racism. Whether or not you think you are being racist when you hang it up, let me tell you – you are.
It is important that people recognize the hypocrisy and inequality this hate symbol encourages. In order to help dissipate the racial tensions going on today, educate yourself, and have an open mind. Listen to others, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You might even end up changing your mind, after all.