Archive for December, 2006

The Confederate Flag: Racist symbol? Is it really?

December 7, 2006 Leave a comment

Some 200 years ago, the people from the than 13 colonies decided that it was time to set up a new station where their future can be decided by themselves and not a despotic king. By setting up this new nation conceived in the notion that men should decide their future and doing so by governing themselves.

As a historian and researcher, my job is to look at the facts as they present themselves and objectively come to a conclusion. I must put my preconceived notions aside and look at what happened, why it happened and the reasons why an event happened. It is often said, that the victors of war write history. This is very true. Let us take for example the The War Between the States, the War of Southern Independence or as we know it, the American Civil War. The underlying issues that caused the war from the perspective of the south was high tariffs, and states rights. From the Northern perspective it was slavery and the bombardment of Fort Sumner. After 4 years of fighting, the Northern states won and the rest is history; history that is from the Northern or winning sides perspective. That perspective also clings to the fact the Confederate flag is racist and represents slavery, the main reason why the Northern states went to war or is it? Let us take a look at the facts. . .

I used to think that the Confederate flag was all about slavery, racism, segregation and anti-semitism. But if we look at our own history, the United States history, we can see that slavery existed under the Stars and Stripes too! Yet you see the NAACP complaining that the Confederate flag represents a part of our history that was not good. If you’re going to condemn the Confederate flag than be consistent and condemn the Stars and Stripes. Because before 1865, slavery was legal under the Stars and Stripes way before the Confederacy was born. But before we get into issue of the flag let us get a refresher in our U.S. history, shall we?

The War Between the States/Civil War was not fought to end slavery, it was a underlying issue for the friction between the Northern and Southern states but not the cause. The reason was to preserve the Federal Union, in other words to keep the South from forming their own country. Most wars, are the direct result of economic reasons. The Northern states at the time preferred high tariffs(taxes on imported goods) whereas the Southern states preferred lower tariffs. The Northern states were an industrial region whereas the Southern states were agricultural. Slavery existed in the Southern states and abolished in the Northern states. The Southern states view of government was quite different from the Northern states. The South’s view was that the government’s power was delegated by the states and that the states, not the government held the ultimate authority. So what does this mean?! It means that they believed in the principles of the Declaration of Independence about the relationship of the states in regards to one another and their association as a nation. They believed that when a government becomes destructive that it is their duty to alter, abolish it or set up a new station. These all ideas that are found in the Declaration of Independence.

Read the Declaration of Indepenence very carefully. It is the foundation in which people today fight for freedom for their country when their old one becomes despotic.

So what do you when a feel your rights start being trampled on or your way of life is threatened? You set up a new shop and government where your rights are protected and that is exactly what the Southern states did. Keep in mind, the majority of Southerners did not own slaves. So when war broke out between the Northern states and Southern states the Confederate soldiers could care less about slavery, they were fighting for the freedom of their state, their way of life and ideas of why governments are instituted among men whose just powers are derived by the consent of the governed. That is what the South was fighting for. Slavery was political issue that the states argued about because of the cultural differences between north and south. The south viewed slavery as an issue of something the state should handle and not the federal government. Lincoln said it himself, he did not wanted to abolish slavery in where it existed but he did wanted it outlawed in the west. But wait, he freed the slaves! Lincoln did not free the slaves, he declared them to be free by the Emancipation Proclamation but that did not mean they were free. How so? Well, he outlawed slavery in territory where the United States government had no control over and secondly the proclamation did not outlaw slavery in the states that were still part of the Union. It was the 13th Amendment that ended slavery forever in the United States; after the war!

Remember, slavery is a part of our past I hope we do not repeat. It is a dark time in our past but we must learn from it in order as a people to move forward understand why it was there and why even today we still see controversy over it. It should have never happened nor even been conceived. But the notion of slavery has existed on this Earth since the days of the British Empire, Egyptians, Roman Empire, Russian Empire, Songhai Empire and the Middle East. If we are to condemn the South for an institution it supported than we must be consistent and condemn the British, Romans, Russians, the Africans, Egyptians, Middle Eastern peoples or any peoples that supported slavery in their own right.

To just condemn the Confederates soldiers who fought with valor, for freedom in their own right is hypocrisy, remember most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves. So when they fought under the Stars and Bars, they were fighting for a cause of freedom from a government that wanted to dictate to them. We must give the Confederate soldier his due, they fought for freedom, they fought for their state, for the ideals of constitutional liberty and the right of a people to set up a new government when the old one becomes repressive. To me, that is the meaning of the Confederate flag.

However, the Confederate flag has had its image tarnished by those seeing the black man and those different culturally. Some men would rather disgrace the flag in which their ancestors fought for valiantly against overwhelming odds and lost. They would rather replace the meaning of the Confederate flag with racism, segregation and bigotry than keep the flag to its true meaning. It is a slap on the face to those Southerners who gave their lives for their land and freedom. They would rather spew words of hate and give the perspective all Southerners share this feeling with hoods and possibly burning crosses. This is the meaning the Confederate flag for me when it is used incorrectly.

So if you were to ask me, what does Confederate flag mean to me? Here is my answer:

In the hands of right people it means, rebel, fighting for a just cause, constitutional liberty against overwhelming odds, Southern culture, pride and valor.

In the hands of the wrong people it means racism, segregation and bigotry. It also means dishonoring those men who gave their lives and fortune both black and white in the name of their country.

If we look at our history, the immoral institution of slavery was legal. The Northern states had the right idea, they abolished slavery, they knew it was wrong. The Southern states on the other hand did not abolish slavery and it was protected by the Constitution because the states held that power to abolish it. So what gives? Eventually, the Southern states would have abolished slavery in their time. Unfortunately, it never happened and many men died for the cause of freedom, both North and South.

A must read about the why the South fought in the war and gives a good meaning to what the Southern flag means.