The Confederate Flag: A Heritage of Hate

Two years ago nine African American worshipers were killed in a racially motivated terrorist attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the wake of the attack journalists discovered that the perpetrator had been regularly photographed with Confederate flags. Since that time a growing number of people have called, often successfully, for the removal of Confederate flags and symbols from public places.

Some on the Right, however, have pushed back against calls to take down the flag, claiming that it represents “heritage not hate.”

For example, for the past two years, Phil Bryant, the Republican governor of Mississippi, has declared April to be “Confederate Heritage Month” in his state. (It is hard to believe it is merely a coincidence that in 2016 Bryant’s declaration was announced in February, Black History Month.) A week after the massacre in Charleston, Jeff Sessions claimed that those criticizing the Confederate flag “seek to delegitimize the fabulous accomplishments of our country.” And last year Congressional Republicans attempted to reverse restrictions on displaying the rebel flag in federal cemeteries by inserting language into a bill that would have funded the fight against the Zika virus. I could go on…

To his credit (how it pains me to write that), You-Know-Who was among those who called for the flag to come down, telling reporters that “…they should put it in the museum, let it go, respect whatever it is that you have to respect, because it was a point in time, and put in a museum.”

To his shame (although I suspect that is an emotion he is incapable of feeling), You-Know-Who has undercut his rejection of the flag by surrounding himself with defenders of Confederate iconography.

In addition to Jeff Sessions, who serves as You-Know-Who’s attorney general, there is Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. In 2002, Perdue campaigned for election as governor of Georgia on a promise to hold a referendum that would allow voters to restore Confederate symbols to a place of prominence on the state flag. After defeating incumbent Roy Barnes, Perdue had the chutzpah to quote the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in his victory speech, crying “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!”

There is also You-Know-Who’s secretary of health and human services, who as a Georgia state senator in 2004 co-sponsored legislation designating April as “Confederate History and Heritage Month.”

And then of course there is You-Know-Who’s favorite cesspit of deplorables: Breitbart, which accused opponents of the rebel flag or promoting an “agenda of cultural genocide against conservatism, tradition and the South.”

And let us not forget You-Know-Who’s refusal to rebuke the large numbers of his supporters who, inspired by him, use the flag to advertise their intolerance and intimidate their opponents.

There were the high school students in Silverton, Oregon hoisted the flag when they gathered to tell their Hispanic classmates, “Pack your bags; you’re leaving tomorrow” and “Tell your family good-bye.” In Traverse City, Michigan a white police officer drove through a group protesting You-Know-Who’s election with a Confederate flag in the bed of his pickup truck. After resigning his position with the Traverse City Police Department Michael Peters issued a statement in which he said:

It is my opinion that if there is one major deficiency that many on the left side of the political spectrum possess, it is their instinct to react primarily on emotion as opposed to fact. Is the confederate battle flag an undisputed symbol of hate and/or racism in this country? The factual answer is no.

So what are the facts? What does the Confederate flag represent? For what purpose was the Confederacy created?

It is, in fact, extremely easy to discover the cornerstone of the Confederacy.

On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, the first (and only) vice president of the so-called “Confederate States of America” gave a speech in which he explained just what it was that differentiated the Confederacy from the Union:

23894u - Copy

Alexander Stephens (Library of Congress)

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests 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. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

In short, the factual answer is that, while the United States of America was founded on the principles of human equality, liberty, and justice, the “Confederate States of America” was founded on the principles of bigotry, slavery, and injustice.  You-Know-Who may be a Republican, but the Republican Party has long since ceased to be the Party of Lincoln. You-Know-Who is the heir of Jefferson Davis.

– P. Sicher

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