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Heritage or Hate?: The Case Against “Our” Confederate Dead


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[Photo Credit: Washington Post]

Monument (noun) – a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event.

The modern-day meaning of “monument” derives from the Latin word monere which means “to remind”. Monuments have always been a staple of prominent civilizations because they serve as a reminder of the past. An immortal symbol that reinforces truths and beliefs of yesteryear. Once ancient civilizations are reduced to rubble and ruin, the monument will serve as a tribute to what once was.

When civilizations are tested by rivals, not only must leaders fall but the roots of the civilization must be excavated as well. As empires fall, the captors make it a point to tear down monuments and statues. The only way a civilization truly dies is if the idea dies with it. The idea is more influential than any mortal man.

America didn’t get that memo.

While it’s not unusual for a nation to have a Civil War or even a divisive rift for that matter, America has made the mistake of picking at the scabs of old wounds instead of allowing them to fully heal.

One truth is certain: If America wants to move forward as a nation, Confederate Monuments must fall.

 

While this truth is truth shall he stated without any conditions, another truth should be established: In order to avoid the mistakes of the past, history must be preserved. 
 
One would argue that Confederate monuments do just that, preserve history. This isn’t the case. History is honored when we tell the most honest version possible. We don’t serve history correctly if we romanticize it. It’s unfair to tell the story from one vantage point. Confederate monuments not only serve as landmarks of noteworthy battlegrounds, they attribute bravery and heroism to the fallen soldiers. They’re often framed with endearing terms such as “Our Confederate Dead” and celebrate the victories while ignoring the immoral cause of the Civil War in the first place.
As someone who wants to tell history as it happened, it’s important to note that it would be careless to typecast every Confederate soldier as a someone profiting from slavery. Or a Confederate sympathizer. Or in some cases, white, for that matter. Even with this acknowledgment, it still doesn’t address why the war was fought in the first place. While the Civil War was fought for many smaller causes, these causes are all under the umbrella of one larger cause.
On February 29th, 1860, a Mississippi Senator stated:
We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.
In another speech, during the same year, he would go on to say:
There is a relation belonging to this species of property, unlike that of the apprentice or the hired man, which awakens whatever there is of kindness or of nobility of soul in the heart of him who owns it; this can only be alienated, obscured, or destroyed, by collecting this species of property into such masses that the owner is not personally acquainted with the individuals who compose it.
This Senator was named Jefferson Davis and he would go on to be the President of the Confederate States of America. (Alabama still marks Jefferson Davis’ birthday as a State Holiday).
These two quotes establish two core beliefs: 1) The white man is superior and the government as a civil institution has a divine obligation to recognize that. Even the lowest white man is still higher than the black man in the caste system. 2) The African man is property and the white man can do with that property as he pleases.  These two quotes are the core tenets of the Confederacy. It’s their primary cause for seceding from the Union. Slavery had become the foundation for the economic system of the South and any talk of abolishing slavery threatened that.
 Flag (noun): a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution or as a decoration during public festivities. Used in reference to the country to which a person has allegiance.
Although the “Stars and Bars” flag was the first official flag of the Confederacy, we are more familiar with the design of the second national flag [Note: The design of The Second National Flag was fixed to the top left of an all white background but the design is still the one most commonly used today.]
William T Thompson, who is linked to the design of this flag although this fact is often refuted, said:
As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S Flag.

In recent years, there have been attempts to revise the motives of the confederacy. No, it wasn’t about state’s rights. It wasn’t solely about harsh taxes levied against southern states. Make no mistake about it, southern states chose to secede from the Union on the basis of maintaining the order of white supremacy and preserving slavery.
This makes the act of seceding from the Union and waging war against it an act of treason. For this reason, no government building should have a confederate flag flying. No state should recognize confederate holidays.

 

Now under our First Amendment protections, nothing prohibits an individual from flying a confederate flag outside of their home. Nothing prohibits them from having confederate reenactments or recognize the birthdays of confederate generals.

 

According to the accounts of many, the Confederate flag has been re-purposed as a symbol of “heritage, not hate”. Even in my small-town experience, people have worn Confederate flag insignia simply because they thought it looked cool. I have known people who wore it and they treated me like they would treat anyone else. To some, the Confederate flag is just as Southern as sweet tea and pecan pie.

Many of these people see taking down this flag as an erasure of history. Taking down these flag means we would be dishonoring the legacy of the South. However, in my opinion, the best version of our government is one that serves the interests of the greater good.

Especially since history tells us that state governments’ use of this flag typically served one purpose.

In Georgia, the Confederate flag was reintroduced in 1956 as a response to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision two years earlier. The confederate flag remained a part of their state flag until 2003, with the adoption of their new flag. Ole Miss also raised the flag as a protest to integration. Let’s take a look at South Carolina as well. Their confederate flag was hoisted in 1961, which served as the centennial anniversary of the Civil War. In 1963, Governor George Wallace ordered the flag to be lifted in front of the state capitol during the state’s battle with the federal government to end segregation.

 

The peculiar timing of the Confederate flag’s resurgence all has one thing in common here: The Democratic States’ Rights (Dixiecrat) Party’s pledge to oppose segregation. These flags were lifted in the late 1950s-1960s to send a message to other states that they still hold onto the beliefs of the Confederacy. Once again, those beliefs are that white people are superior, as ordained by God and black people are predestined to be laborers. These undying beliefs are the reason why some monuments are erected with language such as “War of the Northern Aggression”. Many Civil War veteran organizations not only honor the “heritage” but they still believe the war was fought on fair and just causes.
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For this reason, and this reason alone, Confederate monuments and flags must be finally laid to rest with the memory of the Confederacy. How can I tell you to not celebrate the sacrifices made by your descendants? I can’t. But my family made sacrifices as well. This flag flew during a time when black people were considered nothing more than pieces of machinery. Confederate memorabilia and celebrations can be carried on by those who want to continue the legacy but the message shouldn’t be carried on by states. We are a nation of many cultures and we can’t promote one culture that once believed it was superior to everyone else. No matter your what people’s personal attachment to that flag may be, it was a symbol that struck intimidation and fear into the hearts of African Americans. What you see as heritage serves as a hateful reminder for others
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