I live in Southwestern Pennsylvania, a region that has seen a sharp increase in what I refer to as “redneckification” over the past decade. As such, it is not uncommon to see houses, vehicles, and women in various states of undress proudly displaying the Confederate flag. Why aren’t more people asking why the hell this is happening and what does it actually mean?
It’s About “Heritage”… Right?
So let’s get the 800 lb. elephant in the room out of the way; if you in any way imply that the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and therefore incredibly racist, you are promptly rebuked. “It’s not about racism. It’s about heritage.”
…and that’s where you’ve lost me. Granted, I only have a degree in political science and a law degree, but I’m not seeing where exactly this alleged “heritage” is coming from. Let’s take a look:
So, whose heritage is it about again? Riiiiight.
If America Is Supposed To Be About Winning, Why Are We Glorifying The Losing Side?
Americans flying the Confederate flag, especially those living in the North, are somehow claiming a stance of patriotism by displaying the symbol of the people they defeated in a war. The closest possible comparison would be displaying the flag of some of the other enemies the United States has defeated in war, such as the Nazi flag. Okay, maybe the insane imagery of Americans walking the streets with Nazi flags doesn’t carry quite the same shock value it did before we Made America
White Great Again, but you get the point.
What kind of morons celebrate victory by worshipping the symbol of the people they beat? If your team wins the Super Bowl, do you celebrate by going out and buying a t-shirt of the losing team? Of course not. But somehow, this warped and twisted logic has permeated our nation when it comes to the Confederate flag.
Okay, so it’s not heritage. What else could it be? I asked this question on my Facebook page last week, and the best anyone could do was say people liked the way the Confederate flag looks. Again, that was the BEST anyone could do. If only those people could find another flag to fly that is red, white, and blue and consists of a pattern of stars and stripes…
So, again, why do people in the northern states fly the Confederate flag? You’re not going to like it, but the answer is a combination of racism and ignorance.
It’s About Racism, Whether You Realize It Or Not
You can say it’s not about racism all you want, but let’s call a racist a racist here. It’s about racism. If you’re claiming you’re proud of your heritage, you mean you’re proud to be white. If that’s the case, you are also saying by definition you are proud to not be anything other than white. I’ll let the good people at Merriam-Webster take it from here:
Does this mean anyone and everyone showing off the Stars and Bars is a card-carrying member of the Klan? Of course not, mainly because I’m guessing they don’t give out actual membership cards. This is where the ignorance comes in. (Hey, people under 50 years old, I’m looking at you.) We have hit a point in our history where many Americans weren’t alive for, and therefore have no recollection of, the long and bloody path of the Civil Rights Movement. Lest anyone think otherwise, it was no fucking joke:
Many of the people celebrating the symbols of the Confederacy have no fucking clue what America was like for minorities back then. When we say that shit got real, we’re talking public lynchings in the town square, not Twitter wars and memes. And while you may think you could never be the one hanging from the tree, remember that for the first time ever, there are fewer white than nonwhite children under 10 years of age in America.
And considering how faux-outraged people get these days, let’s remember that there people living today whose grandparents and great-grandparents were actual slaves. If someone had owned, beaten and raped my ancestors, then my country fought a war to win their freedom, I’d be pretty pissed off if the descendants of the guys who lost the war started celebrating the legacy of my ancestors’ oppression. That’s not being an angry black person; that’s being anyone with any sense of decency whatsoever.
So to the 19-year-old kid putting a Confederate flag on your pickup truck, don’t act all shocked when people accuse you of being racist. Maybe you don’t understand what that flag really represents to many Americans, but that’s all the more reason not to fly it. Ignorance of history is no excuse, especially if we are to believe that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. You need to know why flying the Confederate flag is equal parts stupid and wrong so you can make sure your kids know because that’s the only way we can stop this cycle of overt racism in America.
And to those keyboard cowboys who love to spout off that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, just shut up. Yes, there are very complicated and nuanced reasons why the Civil War occurred, but to pretend slavery wasn’t the major factor is just, as you like to call it, fake news. If by chance you are smart enough to really understand the economic and geopolitical factors of the United States in the mid 19th century, you are smart enough to know why you shouldn’t be flying the Confederate flag, so spare us your talking points.
We have enough real problems in America. We don’t need to open very old wounds and bring back the problems of our past. So for Christs’ sake, please, for the love of God, stop worshipping the Confederate flag as a symbol of redneck pride. Stop now, before the racial divide in this country gets worse. The distance from where we are now to hanging people in the town square based solely on the color of their skin is a hell of a lot shorter than you probably realize.